The Georgia Thunder 16U team won its first four tournaments of 2008, taking home the championship trophies at Cordele, Milledgeville, Covington and Dublin.
The Thunder team is coached by Jeff and Missy Rainwater and is based out of Effingham County. The team is composed of 11 girls from Effingham, Bulloch and Screven counties. Of the 11 girls on the Thunder’s 16 and under team, eight are young enough to play in 14 and under. The Rainwaters said the team needed to face more competitive squads in order to step up to the next level.
The remainder of the season was devoted to an attempt to win a berth to the Class-A USA/ASA Nationals in Owensboro, Ky. The Thunder entered the second phase of the season playing in five USA/ASA qualifiers in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee.
A berth to the nationals is normally only awarded to the team that wins the qualifier. Georgia Thunder did not achieve the lofty goal they set out for but still considered the season a great success.
The Thunder placed as high as seventh twice, ninth twice and even beat a few of the teams that qualified for Nationals. Seven of the eight South Atlantic berths went to Atlanta teams.
Two girls from Thunder, Shelby Duff and Alexis Mercer, were invited to play at Nationals with the Atlanta Vipers. The Vipers placed 33rd out of 144 of the best teams in the country. Also, Whitney Smith, Bridget Devlin and Marla Thompson were invited to the ASA Southern Nationals held in Orlando, Fla., to play for the East Cobb Bullets.
Looking ahead to 2009, 10 girls will return for a chance to qualify for the 2009 USA/ASA Nationals in South Dakota. Only Duff will be too old to play for the 16U.
On the Web: http://eteamz.active.com/georgiathunder/