Defense leading way for U16 boys squad
Classics Eagles U16 boys soccer coach Mike Lentz said his team was, at best, a mediocre defensive squad during the first half of the season.
But what was a glaring weakness is now a strength heading into the 2012 Midwest Regional Cup scheduled for Saturday, June 23, through Wednesday, June 27, in Saginaw, Mich.
"We conceded a lot of goals early on, so we made a commitment to play better defense because defense wins championships," Lentz said. "The kids really bought into playing better defense and we had a streak where we didn't give up any goals and went 7-0-1 in our eight games before playing in the State Cup final. If we continue to play that kind of defense, I think we've got a shot at winning regional."
The U13 through U18 State Cup semifinals were held May 12 and the finals were held May 13, with all games played at Hobson Freedom Park in Fairborn.
After beating CUP Crew Juniors Black 4-0 in a semifinal, the Classics Eagles lost to CUP Crew Juniors Gold 1-0 in the final. The team advanced to the Regional Cup when its age bracket was awarded a wildcard spot for the runner-up position.
"We came so close to winning the State Cup and we're going to embrace this opportunity to show that we deserve to be there," Lentz said. "We've got a talented group of attacking players, but we're going to advance as far as our defense will take us. We have a pair of top-notch goalkeepers who split halves in Joe Cipicchio and Jared Rieger. Drew Hicks and Bradyn Dronsfield anchor the center of our defense, but the key to our defending is the depth we have in our backline because we've also got four outstanding outside defenders. Our defensive midfielder, Thomas Gullo, is a box-to-box guy and he has the ability to influence a game when he's on."
The Classics Eagles open pool play Saturday, June 23, against SDU Barcelona from South Dakota before playing Sunday, June 24, against Team Evanston Premier from Illinois and Monday, June 25, against the Michigan Jaguars.
"They all will be quality matches, but I like our draw," Lentz said. "Michigan will be our toughest game. We lost to them 4-0 twice this year. We fell behind 1-0 at halftime in each game and then had to try and push forward, so we have to come up with a different game plan for this game."
U17 team heating up at opportune time
The Classics Eagles U17 boys team will make its first Regional Cup appearance after beating Club Ohio Juventus 3-1 in a State Cup semifinal and CUP Crew Juniors 5-2 in the final.
Kyle Baum scored three goals and Jake Anderson and Ryan Prescott each scored one goal against CUP Crew Juniors.
Last year, CUP Crew Juniors beat the Classics Eagles 2-0 in a State Cup semifinal.
"Our guys have been together since their U11 year and they're a tight-knit group," coach Nick Roberts said. "They've come close to winning State Cups in the past, but they've just been unlucky until this year. This team was up and down most of the year and finally got hot at the right time. CUP was favored to win, but we jumped ahead of them 1-0 in the first 30 seconds and shocked them a bit in the final."
In pool play, the Classics Eagles open Saturday, June 23, against WDMSC from Iowa before playing Sunday, June 24, against Raiders FC Premier from Illinois and Monday, June 25, against Blue Valley SC from Kansas.
"We've got to beat a tough team out of Chicago to get through group play, but the way I look at it is we've got quite a bit of talent and we're as good a group as I've seen, so we'll play hard and see what we can do," Roberts said.
U15 boys look to carry momentum
The Classics Eagles U15 boys team enters the Regional Cup having breezed to its first State Cup title.
The Classic Eagles defeated CUP Crew Juniors 2-0 in a semifinal to avenge a 5-0 loss to that squad in a State Cup semifinal a year ago.
Luke Morias and Jared Pressley scored for the Classics Eagles, who went on to defeat the Ohio Premier Eagles 4-0 in the final.
"CUP Crew Juniors was the No. 1 team in the country, so beating them was a really big deal," coach Andrew Belleman said. "Our team has been on the cusp of being an elite team in Ohio for a while, and our players were very hungry and driven to win a State Cup. We haven't lost in the last two months and we really dominated the State Cup final to end the tournament on a good note."
In pool play, the Classics Eagles open Saturday, June 23, against Blue Valley SC from Kansas before playing Sunday, June 24, against Dynamo FC Red from Indiana and Monday, June 25, against Challenger Crew Juniors from Akron.
"We got a pretty decent draw, but that team from (Akron) is pretty good, so we'll have to play well to win our bracket," Belleman said. "We have some special players who make a real impact whether it's by scoring goals, creating chances or defending, and we'll need them to help lead us in the tougher games.
"Jared Pressley is so fast up top and he really impacts the game with his playmaking. Luke Morais is an impact player who scored the first goal in our semifinal to really set the tone for us right away against CUP Crew Juniors. We're a high-scoring team, but central defender Donny Deep and goalkeeper Adam Miller have been key in helping us keep the ball out of our own net."