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Statesboro's Tormenta is named PDL's "Best New Franchise of the Year"

12/17/2016, 1:45pm EST
By Mike Anthony - Statesboro Herald

South Georgia Tormenta FC burst onto the stage this past summer as Statesboro’s first minor league franchise. Tormenta nearly made the national playoffs in the Premier Development League and quickly became a star in the normally sparse summertime sports landscape of Statesboro.


The games have been done since July, but the organization hit a high point Tuesday as Tormenta FC was recognized as the best new franchise in the league at the PDL’s annual meetings in Tampa, Fla.


“I hoped our colleagues would feel as strongly about our accomplishments as we do,” Tormenta owner and president Darin Van Tassell. “There were clubs from Calgary and Oregon and San Diego recognizing what we’ve done. That’s pretty awesome to think about.”


On the field, Tormenta was extremely successful in its inaugural season. Playing in a division that featured two teams that often made the PDL’s national top-10 rankings, Tormenta finished with a 6-5-3 record and was in the running for a postseason berth until the final weekend of the season.


But the real credentials for the club’s award can trace its roots back to the summer of 2015.


From the moment it was announced that minor league soccer would be coming to Statesboro - and well before any team name or players and coaches had been announced - Tormenta’s front office was hard at work building its brand within the community.


Vice President of Franchise Development Heidi Jeffers and Director of Franchise Development David Ball have been instrumental in building the team’s brand. Because of cooperation between Tormenta’s front office staff and local businesses, the franchise was able to provide a top-notch atmosphere for its players.


Instead of living with host families, Tormenta players were accommodated in apartments where they could live and socialize as a team. Practices and workouts were offered in higher frequency than many competing PDL squads and meals were planned and provided throughout the summer instead of each player being left on their own.


Numerous social events within the community also made players available to the public and that outreach seemed to go both ways as Tormenta topped the 2,000 mark in attendance for all seven of its home games.


“This award comes in large part due to the efforts of Heidi and David,” Van Tassell said. “They’re working hard every day to build this brand. From live streaming, to coaches shows, to all of our other events, they’ve really made us a professional team with a professional environment in a short time.”


“This award also belongs to Statesboro,” Tormenta coach and general manager Ben Freakley said. “It belongs to every fan that supported us from day one. It’s for every mom and dad and grandparent that brought their kids to the games to introduce them to our team.”


The award and fast rise of Tormenta is especially inspiring to Freakley. A former player at Georgia Southern University, Freakley has also served as a coach to many local players as they have worked their way through the youth and high school ranks.


“Fifteen years ago, I wouldn’t have thought Statesboro could be the home of a soccer team with Tormenta’s success and following,” Freakley said. “But I didn’t know Darin 15 years ago. He’s done so much to make this a possibility and now we’re looking forward to continuing to build up this franchise.”

Tormenta hosted a successful 6-on-6 tournament - the ‘Ibis Cup’ - last month. Preparations for the 2017 season are already in motion in the front office. The on-field portion of things will begin on Dec. 17 when Tormenta hosts its first open tryout for the upcoming season.

The 2017 regular season is slated to kick off in early May.