Four central Ohio boys teams captured championships in the U13 through U19 age brackets of the Ohio South State Cup club soccer tournament this spring, marking the 13th consecutive year that local boys squads won multiple titles in the event.
The U19 boys State Cup final was held June 2 at the Columbus Crew training facility in Obetz, and the U13 through U18 boys and girls finals were held May 12 at Hobson Freedom Park in Fairborn.
The State Cup champions advanced to the Midwest Regional Cup tournament June 22-26 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Crew Juniors coach Brian Bliss has been a major part of central Ohio's recent success, leading U19 boys teams to State Cup titles each of the past four years.
Under Bliss' direction, Crew Juniors U19 boys squads also have won Midwest Regional Cups and U.S. Youth Soccer Association national championships in 2010 and 2012.
Nevertheless, Bliss said he and his area coaching peers do not take their success in the State Cup tournament for granted.
Just two teams entered the U19 boys age bracket this spring, and the Crew Juniors beat the Blast FC 3-0 in the final.
"I've been fortunate to coach some really talented teams the past four years, but there's a lot of good competition from other (Ohio South) teams, so we understand that winning this tournament is something we have to earn all over again each year," Bliss said. "The Blast is a great competitor and they are one of the better teams we've played in the State Cup over the past four years. This was a well-fought game and we had to play well to win."
Louis Berra and Connor Klekota scored to help Crew Juniors take a 2-0 halftime lead, and Berra scored again in the second half.
Goalkeeper Ryan McLaughlin made two saves in the final 15 minutes to help Crew Juniors hold on for the win.
"We organize them, give them a good environment and get out of their way because this team has so much talent," Bliss said. "We transitioned the ball very quickly and defended well. This is just step one in the process, so we have to remain humble."
The Blast FC U14 boys team beat Tri-State FA Elite B98 4-1 in a State Cup semifinal May 11 before defeating NWC Alliance B98 Black 1-0 in overtime in the final.
In the semifinal, Kristo Strickler scored the first two goals, River Allbaugh scored the last two, Tre' Boger had two assists and Hector Gomez and Travis Moore each had one assist.
In the final, Allbaugh scored in overtime off an assist from Cade Remy. Josh Marcum was the winning goalie.
"This team has won a lot of major tournaments this year and they played good throughout the entire State Cup," Blast FC coach Lesh Shkreli said. "This isn't the most athletic team, but the boys have a good soccer IQ and they play together."
Ohio Premier Eagles U13 and U15 boys teams both won State Cup titles.
In U13, the Ohio Premier Eagles Green 1 squad beat the Ohio Premier Eagles Green 2 squad 2-1 in the final to capture its second State Cup championship in three years.
"With our Green 1 team, that whole group of players is solid," club director Chris King said. "Both of those teams are coached by Mike Lawrence and he did a good job to get them both to the final. For the final, Mike stood at the midfield stripe and didn't say anything to either team, other than to compliment them on nice plays."
The Ohio Premier Eagles U15 boys team beat CUP Crew Juniors 4-0 in a semifinal and OGFC 97 Elite 4-0 in the final to win its second consecutive State Cup.
"Emmanuel Dapaa had a real big State Cup for us," King said. "He scored four goals in the semifinal."
One local girls team won a State Cup title. The Classics Eagles U13 squad defeated Ohio Premier Eagles 2-1 on penalty kicks to capture its second championship in three years.
The Ohio Premier Eagles scored first in overtime, but Camryn Thompson scored the tying goal with three minutes remaining in the extra session.
The Classic Eagles then won a shootout 4-2, as goalkeeper Giz Luce made two saves and Olivia Finfensky scored the winning penalty kick.
"This was a very difficult age group to win with a lot of tough competition," Classics Eagles club director Mike Lentz said. "Our girls were resilient throughout the tournament, especially after falling behind in overtime in the final.
"We were the only girls team from Columbus to win a State Cup this year, but I don't think it's the start of a trend. KHA (Red from Cincinnati) really rocked it on the girls side, winning three State Cups. But there were a lot of close games that could have gone the other way, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more girls teams from Columbus win State Cups next year."