January 28, 2011 7:42:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Soccer teams from Laurel to DeSoto and from Vicksburg to Columbus will join local teams at the Sportsplex at Lynn Lane on Saturday and Sunday for the Third Annual Frostbite Challenge Tournament for Division II teams in the state of Mississippi.
Hosted by Starkville Soccer Association (SSA), the tournament boasts 74 teams with upper division players, up from 48 in 2010 and 38 in the inaugural event in 2009.
Teams from Starkville, Columbus, West Point, and Caledonia will be represented.
The Frostbite Challenge is expected to see afternoon temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees.
SSA Director of Coaching Robert Gardner is pleased with the turnout, and said local hotels were sold out, which forced some teams to stay in Columbus. More than 2,000 players, parents, and friends are expected to be in the Golden Triangle area for the two-day event.
"We''re excited to have a tournament of this size," Gardner said. "We know this will help businesses in the community, and we''re excited to show Starkville can host a large tournament. We''re expecting a lot of great soccer this weekend."
SSA President Stephen Bock said the continuing response to the launch of a new Division II tournament in the middle of the winter is "nothing short of amazing." Bock thanked SSA volunteers and Starkville Parks and Recreation Department Director Matthew Rye and his staff for preparing the fields, which took rain earlier in the week, and facilities for the event.
Some age groups represented include Under-8 boys and girls, U-10 boys silver and gold divisions, U-10 girls silver and gold divisions, U-12 boys and girls divisions, and a U-14 girls bracket.
Challenge soccer is the division that serves as a transition between recreational soccer and elite, or select soccer. Select soccer is unavailable for U-8 players in Mississippi.
SSA Sponsor Manager Andy Londo credited the league''s team sponsors, the Greater Starkville Development Project, SSA Platinum Sponsor Callaway Orthodontics, Silver Sponsor Coca Cola, major sponsors MFJ Enterprises, SemiSouth, Optimist Club, Holiday Inn Express, Southwire, Wal-Mart, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi, Oktibbeha County Hospital, and Rotary Club for providing financial support so the event could be held this weekend.
Volunteers are needed to help as field marshals and to welcome visitors this weekend and at future tournaments. Those interested in helping should e-mail Gardner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The tournament schedule can be found at www.starkvillesoccer.com.