Young and in charge: Catawba County’s Gabby Vatrano rising in the world of soccer

Mill Creek Middle School soccer star Gabby Vatrano competed during the summer with Charlotte Soccer Academy’s 06 South Elite team during the Youth National Regional and National tournaments.
Marcus Smith
Sports Editor

Champions are made through hard work and dedication with the addition of obvious talent. Often times, a student-athlete is molded into top form by the time he or she reaches the high school level.

However, there are some exceptions to the rule and for Gabriela “Gabby” Vatrano that seems to be the case in 2019.

To say Vatrano -- who is the younger sister of Bandys’ sophomore soccer player Anthony Vatrano -- has made an impact on the soccer field would be an understatement. Her progressive rise to stardom transpired this summer and has gotten better this fall.

Currently competing with the U-14 girls’ team at the Charlotte Soccer Academy for its United States Developmental Academy program, the 13-year-old from Denver, N.C made a huge splash with the United States Youth National League - Piedmont Conference as her team (06 Charlotte Soccer Academy South Elite) finished its regular season at 11-0 and won the United States Youth Soccer Southern Regional Championship in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in June.

06 CSA South Elite (NC) won six straight matches as it claimed the 13U girls' title with a 2-0 victory over TSC (TN). Vatrano scored four goals in this national tournament up to that point. There were 16 teams in the field representing 11 southern states.

Then, her squad competed in the 2019 US Youth Soccer National Championships held July 22-28 at the Overland Park Soccer Complex in Overland Park, Kansas.

Unfortunately, Vatrano’s team didn’t make it to the National Championship game on July 28 -- having lost twice in the preliminaries to eventual runner-up Michigan Jaguars and Real JFC 06 (NJ) -- thus going 1-2 in the championships. The one win did come against the eventual champs Albion South Carolina Academy Whittaker, 2-1, though.

During that run, Vatrano scored two goals -- one against Albion SC Academy and one against the Jaguars.

During this tournament, she led the team in goals with six (two in the National Championships.) Even though the club didn’t make it to the title game, 06 CSA South Elite was the only youth girls’ soccer team in North Carolina to make it to the National Championship preliminaries.

“I think that was a really fun experience because it was a lot of team bonding (off the field),” said Vatrano. “I think it made us work better because we kind of understood each other more.”

In her 7th grade year last season, Vatrano led her Mill Creek Middle School Knights’ soccer team to one of its best seasons to date as a program. As a standout in several positions, she led her Knights in scoring and assists.

Before moving to the Charlotte Soccer Academy for the USDA program -- the highest level of youth soccer under the U.S. Soccer wing, Vatrano competed for Lake Norman Soccer Club in Mooresville for several years.

Accolades came Vatrano’s way this summer, as well, having secured the Catawba County “Best 11” individual honor at the national tournament.

Since the summer, Vatrano participated in an invite-only training in the Youth National Team Identification Center in Raleigh. The most recent YNT event was held on September 18 which included twenty of the top girls from North and South Carolina.

With the U-14 team at the Charlotte Soccer Academy this Fall, Vatrano dominated once more as she earned a team-high nine goals in seven games played thus far. The most recent outing with her squad was a 3-1 victory over United Fútbol Academy U-14 on November 23, 2019, in which she scored two goals. There is a little hiatus before the next match in February. So far, as team captain, she has led them to a 3-1-3 overall record.

“I like the whole DA (Developmental Academy) thing a lot because it’s kind of like a big family,” she said. “I was kind of nervous because of the whole being new thing, but there were a lot of older girls that were really nice and kind of walked me through it. Now, I think it’s really fun to compete against the veteran teams because you get better competition to play, so it’s making our team a lot better I think.”

Vatrano said she began playing soccer at around four or five-years-old after seeing her older brother Anthony and dad Tony out in the yard practicing. She said she started kicking the ball around after that and just really liked it.

Although still young, Vatrano mentioned areas she would like to improve on in the immediate future:

“I think leadership is a big thing like on the field talking to teammates, communicating, like being a big role on my team and also technical stuff like finishing,” she said.

With years ahead of her, she will surely improve which will be scary for whomever the opposition is in front.