Belnap chosen for soccer Olympic Development Program

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ARLINGTON — Arlington sophomore Tess Belnap was recently chosen for the Region I Olympic Development Pool Team, a group of the top 30 sophomore soccer players from the New England and Mid-Atlantic states.

Belnap attended a camp this July at Gettysburg College and was the only Vermonter chosen in her class, athletes born in 2001.

States in the Region include: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.

"You go to the camp, it's one big tryout," Belnap said on Tuesday after Arlington's practice. "They put you on different teams and then the coaches evaluate you for the pool team."

Every day, the coaches put out a list of who's in and who's out. On the final day of the camp, the list becomes final.

According to the U.S. Youth Soccer website, players are selected on the basis of the open tryouts using four criteria that make up a soccer player — technique, tactics, fitness and athletic ability and attitude.

"The camp is four days, I was on the list every day," Belnap said. "I was shocked when I [made the final list]. I didn't think I would make it. It's just a really intense and big camp, very competitive and the girls there are really, really good."

Belnap had attended the ODP camp twice before, failing to make the squad. This year, she doubled down on the effort, playing club soccer for the Southern Vermont Fusion and attending camps at Dartmouth, Williams and the John Werner camp.

"I'm lucky to have good high school coaches and coach [Christopher] Chapdelaine," Belnap said. "And Hector [Tamayo], the ODP coach, is a great coach. And my family are huge supporters."

Her dad Chris and mom Florence put a lot of miles on the car, bringing Tess all over the region.

"Tess has two older siblings and I think watching them benefited her a lot," said Florence Belnap. "She was immersed into it at a young age. She works hard, she's a good student and we're just as proud of that as we are the soccer."

Belnap's sister, Maggie, played at Arlington as well. The two are nine years apart.

"[Tess] thought the world of her sister, but never tried to be her," Florence Belnap said. "She has a level of groundedness, because she saw her siblings come before her, which puts things in the right perspective."

Arlington coach Aaron Wood has seen Belnap grow a lot from the first day on varsity as an eighth grader to now.

"She's getting more mature every year, she's willing to take more leadership and talk more," Wood said. "When she made the team, she told me she was surprised, I told her I was not. No one works hard than Tess does on the field, those 80 minutes, no one will outwork her. She's intelligent overall and that translates to her being an intelligent player."

Being chosen for the ODP gives a player from a smaller school, one that might have been lost in the shuffle, a chance to be seen by a lot of college coaches.

"There's good players in D4, but they might not get the exposure because it's [a] small [school]," Belnap said. "It's nice to have the opportunity to be seen by college coaches."

Florence said they don't put a lot of expectations on Tess, but are extremely proud of her accomplishments.

"We know she's a good player, and we're proud of all the work she put in to do the best she could," Florence Belnap said. "She was close to making it last year, she enjoyed the experience of [the camp] the first year, but she took it seriously and it worked out for her. We're pleased that she set out to do it and she did it."

In December, Belnap will head to an ODP training camp to see where she goes from here.

"ODP is a commitment in traveling, and it's flattering to be a part of it," Belnap said. "I've played with girls who are committed to big Division I schools and smart girls, one I play with is going to Yale."

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