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Local soccer player ventures where few Lake Tahoe residents have

Local soccer star Leon Abravanel has earned a chance to go where few local players have – into California’s Olympic Development Program.

Abravanel, 13, a South Lake Tahoe resident, performed a rare feat by qualifying for California’s ODP program out of the state’s sixth district – which contains 45,000 soccer players. Abravanel tried out and qualified for the 36-member district team recently, and has the chance to go even further in the program’s ranks.

“I just hustled the whole way, and I tried hard,” said Abravanel, who made the district team at a tryout Aug. 30 in Cherry Island, Calif. “There were kids who had a lot better skills, who were a lot better shooters, with more accurate shots. I think I made it because of the hustle.”



Abravanel can continue to rise in the ODU ranks this weekend, when he will try out for the organization’s state team in a camp at Morgan Hill, Calif. State team participants have an opportunity to try out for one of four regional teams in October at Morgan Hill, and regional team members can try out for a national squad.

“I’m shooting for the regional team,” Abravanel said. “I hope I make it, but it’s going to be hard.”




For the tryouts, evaluators watch the players in a series of scrimmages. Abravanel found out he made the District 6 team when the coaches told him during the last practice session to come back for the next morning if he didn’t hear anything from them. Sure enough, there was no word, and Abravanel went back the next day and found his spot on the team. But there was a letter welcoming him to the team waiting for him when he returned home to Lake Tahoe.

“They just let you play scrimmages and they just evaluate you the whole way through,” Abravanel said.

When he’s not working out for ODP, Abravanel plays with South Tahoe’s Galaxy U14 soccer team. The Galaxy still is undefeated after a trip to Folsom Lakes for a tournament Sept. 3-5.

“He’s very demanding of himself,” said Steve Head, who, along with Hugo Lizaola, coaches Abravanel on the Galaxy squad. “He’s never happy with himself.”

Head said Abravanel’s level of play has gone up tremendously over the past six weeks, and said the young player has the quickest first three steps he’s ever seen.

Abravanel returns to classes at South Tahoe Middle School this week, where he also plays basketball. But soccer is his first love, and he can take his game to an even higher level with ODP.

“I’d want to take this as far as I can and just try as hard as I can,” Abravanel said.


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