Lazers Start Fire — Head to Nationals.
By Jennifer Johns
Though we’ve had qualifying teams each year, Georgia hasn’t sent a team to National Cup Regionals in 6-7 years… because it’s a huge commitment by the team. But the Atlanta Lazers, members of the Atlanta Fire Soccer Club, are heading to Houston on Memorial Day weekend, and they’re looking to bring home some hardware.
The team, comprised of 19 athletes from ages 18 to 37, all come from diverse backgrounds and none knew each other before joining the team. Their Coach, Frank Chillemi, who has been with the club since its beginning in 2000, states that this team has come together like none he’s had in the past. “They genuinely like each other and play for each other. There are no attitudes… it’s a great team feeling.”
Coach Chimelli moved from New York in 1996, having coached boys and men for 20+ years. In 2000, when his sister approached him to help the Lazers, the team had just been destroyed in a massive 7-a-side loss. He took on the team management soon after, and has remained through their growth to full 11’s … even when they weren’t that good. Frank says the difference in coaching women is that they listen more. Chillemi says,” Teenage boys and men always think they know it all… the women are less individualistic and it’s a good team-oriented feeling. I’ll never go back to coaching men.”
The team is comprised of women who have played their entire lives. Seventeen of the 19 played college soccer, or the equivalent level abroad. They can often be found playing together on additional 7-a-side teams or indoor squads. Due to that experience and unity, the Lazers, in their 3-5-2 lines, are formidable.
This season, they took on all-comers in Division 1 of the ADASL – the only women’s adult league registered with the state. Therefore, winning this league automatically qualified them to represent Georgia, playing against the 13 teams of (the Southeast) Region III in the National Cup. They decided this February, after winning a Mardi Gras tourney in New Orleans, that they’d give the National Cup a try. If they succeed, they are all committed to heading to the National Finals in Chicago this July.
The two co-captains are fire and ice. Claire Delmastro, a 37 year old mother of three, who played college ball at University of Michigan, runs marathons and plays competitive tennis when off the field. Chillemi calls her the fittest of the team; she plays up front as one of two strikers. Her calm, quiet leadership is reminiscent of Chriristine Lilly.
In the back is co-captain Samantha Jones, who at 25, spent her early days playing club soccer for the Roswell Santos before attending West Georgia University. Now, back in Atlanta as head soccer coach at Roswell High School, she anchors the defense at center back and is the more vocal director on the field. She also brought to the team her fiancé, Tony Carter, who is the team’s assistant coach.
Bea (bay-ah) Landa, 31 , at center midfield, is considered the best woman playing amateur soccer today. Her touch and vision on the field, and soccer decision-making, are the keys to the Lazer’s attack. Bea played semi-pro soccer in her home country of Spain, and brought not only her talent, but also her work ethic and her heart to the Atlanta Lazers.
In goal, Kathleen Blake is fearless. At 26, she is a tremendous athlete who, just by her presence, has been a key difference maker on the squad. When she joined the team a little over a year ago, she raised the Lazers to an entirely new level. Blake played ball at Catawba College in South Carolina, and in addition to many honors, was third all-time with a .98 goals against average.
Currently the Lazers’ youngest player at age 23, Jamie Robertson is probably the most technically skilled on the field. She is a center midfielder who provides a toughness and defensive presence on the line, and who is also gifted with a booming shot offensively. Jamie moved to Alpharetta from Germany less than 2 years ago.
Over the years, great players have come from local colleges to the Lazers. Specifically, Chillemi’s cousin Dominic Martelli was the head coach at Georgia State, and put his graduates in touch with his cousin at the Lazers. The Lazers are now returning the favor. Martelli is currently head coach at Georgia Gwinnett College and is building a brand new women’s soccer program. One of his players starting in the fall is Dacula native Kristen Moore. She joined the Lazers 10 years ago when she was 17, but has two years of eligibility left and has chosen to play for Martelli. The second-longest tenured player on the roster, Kristen has worked hard and has gone from being a mediocre forward to one of the Lazers’ top 4 defenders.
The list goes on… including all makes, models and professions. Marta, a 27-year-old from Spain, is a professional model. Victoria Slevin from Suwanee is the longest reigning member (since 2001).
Financial support for the team has been an off-the-field challenge. The Lazers committed to raise $10,000. They have held cookouts outside of an Alpharetta Kroger, hosted a soccer party (ticketed event) at a restaurant in Suwanee, and they have led soccer clinics for youth girls teams.And this weekend? A garage sale. These combined events have totaled $7500, which covers their airfare, but they still need to raise money to offset the cost of the hotel and ground transportation. What if they advance to Nationals in Chicago? Coach Chimelli answers,” Well, we will raise what we can and we’ll shoulder the rest. We are all in this 100% to take this as far as it goes.”
May 12, 2012 the Lazers will be playing an exhibition game against the Georgia Revolution, the new team from Atlanta that will be competing in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. The game will be at 5:30 pm at the RYSA Soccerplex, home of the Revolution.
Support and contributions for the Lazers can be made via paypal by CLICKING HERE.