Burrell soccer players head to Spain for international tournament

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Monday, January 3, 2022 | 10:35 AM


The trip has been in the planning stages since the summer months.

Now, it is a reality.

Burrell freshman Miley Kariotis and middle schooler McKenna Miller earned positions on Futsal USA National teams currently competing in an international soccer tournament in Madrid, Spain.

Miley Kariotis, 14, is an all-section midfielder at Burrell. McKenna Miller, 12, is a seventh grader on the girls middle school team.

Both have been instructed in the Dragons Futsal program by Andrew Kariotis, coach of the Burrell boys soccer team.

“I am very proud of these two for making the teams, but I am not surprised,” coach Kariotis said. “I’ve watched them play and grow for years, and they have earned their spots. Both play any position on the court.

“These two are very coachable players, fiercely competitive and always take training seriously.”

The Burrell soccer standouts, who live about a mile from each other, departed Dec. 26 for Spain with other family members and will return Jan. 4. Miley earned a spot on the 2007 national girls team, and McKenna landed a position on the 2009 national girls team.

“We are thrilled for McKenna to have this amazing opportunity,” said her dad, Ian Miller. “Representing your country is something that we’ve talked about a lot, and I believe she understands the significance in this trip.

“McKenna worked incredibly hard in the late spring and early summer, mostly on her own, to prepare for National ID. Earning a spot on this team has really reinforced the concept of hard work paying off.”

As expected, both girls are ecstatic to be a part of this international event.

“I am so excited to have this opportunity to represent my country in playing a sport that I love,” Miley said. “It’s something I’ve dreamt of and worked for for a long time.

“I hope to keep improving my playing abilities during the visit while I’m playing at such a high level. I am also looking forward to meeting new people and becoming friends with my teammates from all around the U.S.”

Traveling outside the country is not new to McKenna. She has been on three vacations in Mexico with her family.

“Hopefully, some of the Spanish she was exposed to rubbed off her,” said her dad.

McKenna, nonetheless, is delighted to be in Spain.

“I am so excited to represent my country,” she said. “This is such a tremendous opportunity to go and learn new things and just to have fun. I can’t wait to play with different kids and get to know new people.

“I always have high expectations for myself, so of course I want to play well and, hopefully, win. A big part of going to Spain is to learn new things and to experience a new culture.”

In March, the girls attended the first tryout for PA West candidates at Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena in Harmarville. From there, they were invited to try out in July at the national level in Overland Park, Kan.

McKenna found out she made the team in August. Miley originally was chosen for the national player pool and was called up to the team in early September.

The families of the players selected for the national squads are responsible for their own expenses. The Burrell girls are playing and training in Madrid at different times.

Miley has played soccer since a young age, starting with a kindersoccer program at age 4. She then played with Tri-City and for the past few years with Arsenal Football Club. She has competed in futsal since it was available locally. Her father organizes and coordinates local teams.

She has played for Dragons Futsal, owned by her dad, since 2015.

McKenna also began playing soccer at age 4. She competes in Burrell’s middle school program, as well as with Tri-City and Beadling Soccer Club. She started out with Dragons but now plays for Assassins Futsal.

“As soon as she was old enough to walk, she was throwing or kicking a ball, so we knew she needed to be doing something active,” said her dad.

Futsal is a soccer game held on an indoor basketball-sized court with reduced-sized goals. It is played between two teams of five players, including one goalie. Unlimited substitutions are permitted.

A futsal game runs for two periods. Players get more touches on the ball. It is played with specific rules — such as no offsides — at a high speed that make the game fast and dynamic.

An official futsal ball is smaller, heavier and bounces less, than a standard soccer ball.

“Futsal is a fast-paced game that helps players become better soccer players both indoor and outdoor,” coach Kariotis said.

McKenna is a multi-sport athlete at Burrell. She plays soccer and basketball and plans to compete in track in the spring. She also enjoys participating in 5K races.

“I have played on a lot of great teams and have had a lot of outstanding coaches,” McKenna said. “I want to thank them for helping me become a better player and teammate.”

Miley scored her first varsity goal Sept. 16 by netting the winner in overtime against Freeport. She participates in FBLA and Reading Railroad at her school.

“Reading Railroad is a club that promotes reading to elementary kids where we visit our elementary schools to read to them,” Miley said. “This year, we did a Halloween read-a-thon and a virtual Christmas story session.”

The trip to Spain is Miley’s first experience of stepping foot on foreign land.

“I am very thankful for this opportunity and for everyone who has helped me get to where I am now,” she said. “They believed in me all the way since the beginning and are helping me believe in myself to become the futsal player I hope to be.”

Miley’s parents and two older brothers accompanied her on the trip.

McKenna’s parents and both sets of grandparents traveled to Spain, as well.

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