Cheerleaders headed to nationals, seek community support

Nov 18, 2021

When Ann Davis became a coach for the Dartmouth Youth Football League Pop Warner varsity cheerleaders, she offered the girls a choice.

“You can just have fun and make friends, or I can coach you to Universal.’’

They chose the second option and met their goal: The team qualified for the first time ever for the national championships at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla.

But did it without sacrificing having fun and making friends, the girls said. 

“We’re kind of like a family,’’ Bella Cardoso, 13, said.

The team, which includes girls ages 12 to 14, will compete in early December after placing high enough in the regionals competition to punch their ticket to Universal.

“I’m looking forward to the experience,’’ said Paige Przystas, 13, who has been cheering for Pop Warner since she was five. “I’ve never competed before’’ on a national level. 

Courtney Ayana, 12, enjoys the camaraderie of “being together as a group.’’

She said she was “bored at home’’ and looking for something to do when she decided to join the squad, alongside friends who were already members. 

“I love doing stunts,’’ she said. 

Anne’s daughter, Faith Davis, 19, cheered for Pop Warner since she was seven. She now assists her mother with coaching duties.

Faith wants the girls to take their efforts seriously. “It’s not all fun and games. I’m extremely tough on them. My coaches were tough on me.’’ 

Being so close to the girls’ age gives her a different perspective, she said. “I’ve been in their same position,’’ she said. “I know what it’s like to want something so bad.’’

The team performs traditional cheers during Pop Warner youth football games but also works on more sophisticated routines, which is what they perform in competitions. 

They will present a 2 ½-minute routine, with 90 seconds of a musical performance, followed by a minute of cheers.

The team is raising money to cover the costs of their trip.

They are hosting a gift card raffle via

They are also raising funds through a GoFund Me effort at

The preferred deadline for donations is Dec. 1.

Team members are: Kaylee Albernaz, 13; Lyli Almeida, 14; Courtney Ayano, 12; Mya Cabral, 12; Bella Cardoso, 13; Morgan Moniz, 12; Ava Nicholson, 13; Taylor Pearson, 13, and Paige Przystas, 13, all students at Dartmouth Middle School; Emma Farland, 13, who attends Friends Academy; and Elena Monteiro, 12, a student at Alma Del Mar. 

Przystas, one of the team’s most senior members, would encourage anyone interested to sign up for future squads. “Keep trying,’’ she said she would advise them. “You can do it.”