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Athletics-Nielsen 16-U team continues to steamroll through competition

July 8, 20201

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


If you don’t know the Athletics-Nielsen 16-Under travel softball team by now, that’s okay. Although the team has been around for four years, it hasn’t played in a lot of Southern California tournaments or showcases for the locals to witness without making airline or hotel reservations.

So far this summer, the Athletics have participated in the Triple Crown Sports Zoom into June Tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona and recently the Team New Jersey Summer Showcase in Edison, NJ. Going out of state hasn’t made the team of heavy hitters miss a beat as went 5-0 in the Valley of the Sun, outscoring the opposition 60-5. Then on the East Coast, the Athletics won five of six games, scoring 56 runs while yielding 15. However, eight of those 15 runs came in the last game of the showcase against the [Plainville, MA] Rhode Island Thunder.

“It’s a good experience to take your team out of state and play against better teams in the nation,” said manager Jon Nielsen. “A lot of teams stay in California; that’s all they know. But I take my team to other states in the big showcases and play against the best teams to kind of see where you’re at.”

Other than the travel, there really isn’t that much difference between going outside California and staying in state to go to such showcases and tournaments like the Zoom into June out here, the Surf City Tourneys Summer Showcase, the Premier Girls Fastpitch Qualifiers and/or National Championships or the Champions Cup in Irvine. Nielsen says he enjoys seeing the top teams in other parts of the nation that normally wouldn’t come out to Southern California, unless they are part of the PGF National Championships.

“The end goal was we got a ton of schools, a ton of colleges come out to watch,” Nielsen said. “The big organizations that we beat, they’re like, ‘man, you guys are a good team’. So, it’s kind of fun to go out there and just share what we do in California with the rest of the nation.

“Most teams carry 16-20 girls to these showcases,” Nielsen later said. “I took 10 girls to New Jersey [but] I had nine the first day. One of my pitchers didn’t fly in until the second day. So, I had nine girls the first two games and then I had 10 the next three. When I go to Atlanta, I’ll have 11. We keep the numbers small; the girls play and get a lot of reps.”

Nielsen hasn’t kept too many statistics on his team this season, but he hasn’t had to. He knows what he is getting from his team, which includes half a dozen players from Hawai’i and his daughter and reigning HMG-Community News Player of the Year Jadyn Nielsen, who has committed to the University of Hawai’i, among others. Two players who hail from the island of Kauai, Hawai’i and attend Kapaa High, Seijia Makanani and Savannah Simons, received offers from Georgian Court University, located in Lakewood Township, New Jersey when the team was in the Garden State last week. The Lions softball team went 38-6 this past season and advanced to the NCAA Division II East Regionals.

Earlier this week, the team headed to Twin Creeks Park in Woodstock, GA to participate in the prestigious Atlanta Legacy Showcase, the second year that Nielsen has brought his team to the Peach State. The Athletics went 7-2 in 2019 before inclement weather cut the team short of a quarterfinal game and weather is always an issue in the Southeast this time of the year. The Athletics faced the [Watkinsville, GA] EC Bullets-Glenn and the [Palm Beach Gardens, FL] Lady Gators on July 8 and are scheduled to have games against the [Suwanee, GA] Lady Dukes National-Rabitsch and the [Buford] Georgia Impact Premier-Caymol today before concluding pool play action on Saturday against the Jersey Intensity KOD/Martin and [Honolulu] Team Kulia. The single elimination playoffs begin on Sunday and the Athletics fly back to Southern California on Monday. Upon arrival from Atlanta, the Athletics will have a quick turnaround and head to St. George, Utah on Tuesday where they will participate in the USA Preps Summer Nationals from July 15-18. The next major showcase the team will be in won’t be until October 22-25 when they head to Orlando for the D9 Sun Classic-Winter Showcase, held at the ESPN Worldwide Sports Complex.

Like other travel softball coaches, Nielsen says he is thankful that his team has been able to get back on the field after not competing last summer because of the pandemic and can clearly see a difference between the two seasons.

“A lot of people didn’t do anything during Covid,” Nielsen said. “We actually cranked it up. The main thing is our performance trainer, Morgan Fennell of Long Beach Poly, ex-quarterback who is a sports performance trainer. He worked with my girls three days a week and we never stopped.

“It’s a fun thing; it’s a testament to the girls for their hard work during Covid,” Nielsen added. “My team…I know my California girls stayed in shape. We worked out and we got better where some people didn’t do anything. And I know my Hawai’i girls put the work in too. To be able to come back and put everything together and have them play how they played is…I couldn’t ask for anything else.”