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ALL GAME REPORTS
Sep. 30, 2017
A L L G A M E R E P O R T S .......⚽️
⚽️ GAME 1:
On September 16th, the Ocala Hurricanes christened their fall season with a tough win over a skilled Power Rangers squad, riding the endurance of nine hard working players running all sixty minutes with no subs. Well into the first half, #13 Martella Asbey drove from the left corner by two defenders along the end line, to break the ice with a quick tap by the keeper into the near netting. The Rangers replied with several golden tries early in the second frame, leaning on their most skilled players, but the 'Canes defense held firm and turned the match.
In the late minutes, a handball was well called on the Rangers in their own penalty area. Sweeper Josh Sieradzki stepped up to calmly skim the penalty kick into the right corner for the insurance tally. Sieradzki also anchored the diamond defense in front of Aiden Chittum's first appearance goalkeeping for the Hurricanes, notching his first shutout with seven saves. Altogether, the Hurricanes fared well in their first outing against a skilled team, taking a hard 2-0 win without three of their own skilled players. They look ahead believing the best for a strong season with their full squad.
⚽️ GAME 2:
On a brilliant September 23rd, the royal blue Ocala Hurricanes overcame an early deficit with a complete team effort, for a tough 3-2 win. They took the barn burner over their familiar practice and scrimmage neighbor, the sky blue Typhoons.
Facing a low and blinding early fall sun, the Canes attackers started a shooting show that scuffled out no results. Then, just after the first water break, the Canes defense allowed a high shot from the Typhoons crafty right winger, launched from that side into the high near netting. After last week's shutout over the Power Rangers, the league's only shutout so far, it was as if goalkeeper Aiden Chittum and the squinting Canes didn't understand the foreign language of allowing a goal. They looked around at each other and their coaches for an answer and they found it fast.
The Hurricanes responded with a sort of businesslike fury back into that blinding sun, with laser passing staging two quick goals of their own. Anthony Minami picked up a feed from sweeper Josh Sieradzki past resistance down the left touchline, for the first answer into the far netting. Right striker Martella Asbey seemed to say "OK I've got one, too", and buried another shot from the other side, past the reeling Typhoons keeper. The Hurricanes finished the first half hammering the Typhoons with deep clearance passes from defenders Emma Wood and Kaleigh Beers, winning loose balls and securing the attack.
The second half opened with a series of Typhoons pressure runs with flashes of good skill up their right side again, and an eventual tying goal deflected off the head of a Canes defender. The Hurricanes, however, shook off the miscue with intensifying resolve from midfielders Savannah Polk and Caitlin Connolly, who both brought plenty of heart to haul the match back into their own schemes and thrusts. Those two girls rotated in and out of the right flank while left midfielder Ryan Dennis harassed and shut down the Typhoons right winger and generated more support along that left touchline with left striker Minami, whose plying ideas were thwarted several times before finishing the scoring with a spectacular winning shot lofted from over twenty yards out.
One way or another, the gripping seesaw contest was waiting for who wanted it most. As a new squad, the Hurricanes are establishing identity early. They again showed focus and teamwork across adversity, finding themselves already atop a competitive league of six. Standing alone with two wins, they now see themselves as hard working winners ready for what's next.
⚽️ GAME 3:
The morning of September 30th began with a rare pile of early rain clouds rolling in from the east, as players at the Big Sun Soccer Complex got their pregame stretching and warm-ups coordinated. Field 9 slated the royal blue Hurricanes (2-0) versus the dark blue Rip Tide (1-0-1). Going into the match, the Hurricanes led the league with a perfect two wins, touting the league's only shutout and toughest defense, allowing just two goals in the first two games. The Tide, also undefeated, played the Power Rangers to a draw the week before, and conversely boasted the best goal production (10) across their two matches. Best attack versus best defense: something had to give.
Just as the colors were raised for the pledge and anthem, the gentle sweeping rain arrived. A wet field with a new young referee would be the setting. The Hurricanes won the toss and elected to defend the east goal with the passing rain and expected sun at their backs. The fog and mist would not lift until halftime, and the Hurricanes proved ready for this setting after forging through two rainy practices during training. Left striker Anthony Minami (#10) opened the scoring immediately with a penatrating run down his touchline that then swung through two defenders for a move to the interior and a point blank opportunity used well. Right striker Martella Asbey (#13) continued to capitalize on a quickly disheveled Rip Tide defense, with two penatrating breakaways and two more tallies, as the Hurricanes hit the first 15-minute water break already leading, 3-0. To finish the half, the Hurricanes kept pouring it on The Tide's best athletes stacked in the back, with a second score from Minami and a third from Asbey. The Hurricanes, missing two key midfielders, still managed to dominate their nearest league contenders, 5-0, by halftime. They received cautionary encouragements from Coach Miley at halftime to keep working hard because that's who they are, a hard working winning team. A goalie change was made to give starting goalkeeper Aiden Chittum some running time in the field, and Ryan Dennis some time in net. Chittum remains the league's best goalkeeper, allowing just two goals in five soccer halves.
The second half opened with the Tide stacking their best athletes up front, but the Hurricanes intensified the coordination of their diamond defense, with stellar plays and support between stopper Kaleigh Beers (#8) speerheading resistance, and left back Emma Wood (#6), repeatedly frustrating the Tide's best striker and biggest boy, #12. Sweeper Josh Sieradzki (#7) had a quick answer for anything tumbling through that side, and also took care of anything that might squeak past a stone wall performance by right back Quadarius Mitchell (#3). Before the last water break Asbey added Goal #6, his fourth of the day, to the runaway shutout of the frustrated Tide across the first 45 minutes.
IMG_4204.mov (video of game action)
It was obvious that the Tide's best attackers had not yet seen a well organized diamond defense. They had racked up an average of five goals a game before this cold greeting from the Canes. Their persistent efforts, however, caught a break when the referee blew a whistle without making a call. Hurricane defenders were out of position while asking for the unspoken call, which was the moment the Tide siezed for a quick kick past backup goaltender Ryan Dennis, which was not disallowed under brief inquiry from Coach Miley, despite the no-call. The Tide seemed to pick up some momentum from that confusion, and continued to press along their right touchline. Sieradzki was busy mopping up incursions, and was forced to clear a play across the goal mouth, which Dennis reacted to as a threat by grabbing it. Unfortunately, there's a rule that goalkeepers can't use hands for a direct foot pass from a teammate -- a finer point that even starting keepers at higher levels don't always honor. That led to a penalty kick which the Tide used for their final tally to save some face. However, the Hurricanes answered with the final goal of their shooting fest, immediately after Asbey was substituted back in after a big breather. He was so antsy to get something back for the Hurricanes, that he sealed the deal with his fifth goal in full stride from the moment he was subbed in, immediately stripping the ball from a midfielder for one more run on net. The final stamp of authority was clear as the Hurricanes took care of their closest rival on a wet field that they enjoyed, 7-2.
⚽️ GAME 4:
On Saturday morning, October 7th, the Ocala Hurricanes walked onto another dew-laden field for pre-game warm-ups as the only squad in their U14 league with a perfect 3-0 record. Touting the league's only shutout, least goals allowed, and most goals scored, they were looking to continue momentum versus the talented 1-1-1 Ninjas.
"The Ninjas are a competitive contender in our league," said Hurricanes Head Coach Miley. "Our players know who they are, and that they have good talent and experience. We know they may at times overmatch us individually, but we're also gaining confidence that no other team can outmatch our team. We feel confident we will come out of this one understanding a little more why we need each other. Our players are communicating and moving for each other better every week. Our counter attacks are snappier. Our passing is more instinctive. Our heads are up better. For threats and connections. We 're learning how to isolate and stop talented individuals on the other side, by forcing mistakes with tenacious challenges and recycling our defenders in waves. While a talented attacker may occasionally get through our lines, we know we're stronger together than other teams are individually. This league is baffled by the methods of our diamond defense. Our attackers are becoming more opportunistic because they're up against the league's best defensive system and goalkeeper every practice. Soccer is more than formations and philosophies and a coach yelling stuff. We know it's a game of connections, and that's how we practice."
The Ninjas were missing several players, so both squads played down to 8 v 8. The Hurricanes won the toss, and speaking Captain Emma Wood elected to defend the east goal on the foggy morning. Like Game 2 against the Typhoons, the Canes seemed to need a wake-up call by allowing the first goal. A smooth penetrating run by #11 of the Ninjas, weaving his way by three defenders and calmly laying the icebreaker by Canes Goalkeeper Aiden Chittum, caught everybody flat-footed.
"You got a strong answer for that, Canes!" shouted Miley, as the Canes jogged back to the halfway line for their kick. And that is what followed. Immediately, left striker Anthony Minami (#10) took up the challenge and set to work with two quick goals from the right and then the left flank. Before the first water break fifteen minutes in, right striker Martella Asbey(#13) returned the hammer to his side, taking a slick feed from Minami for Goal #3, and another sweet assist from right back Quadarius Mitchell who ripped a turnover from the Ninjas. Four fast goals past the sprawling Ninjas defense set the tone for another dominant Hurricanes outing, as Asbey took another assist from Mitchell and swung in for some more net from the left, and striker Nate Ruiz added the sixth goal off a steal before halftime. The second half quieted down with one goal a side, as Miley pulled his starting strikers and jumbled the attack around for more players to have a try. #10 got a second goal past Chittum, who has allowed only four goals in as many matches, but Minami sealed the deal with one more "hello, it's me again" message for the Ninjas, knocking in his third goal from the left flank. In those final fifteen minutes, a Ninjas injury would drop the match to 7 v 7, opening the field even more. The Ninjas went to a 3-3 formation while Miley held onto his diamond with only two attackers to secure the match, 7-2.
"Our squad answered talent with team," said the coach, "and deficit with dominance. Playing smaller sides generally works to the favor of a team that leans on individuals, but our kids hung together strong. We kept the connections we needed, and kept our heads after their star made a good run on us. Our confidence grows every week."
The 4-0 Hurricanes face the 0-2-2 Highlighters next Saturday morning on Field #7 at 9:30.
⚽️ GAME 5:
On Saturday, October 14th, the Ocala Hurricanes added to their perfect start and momentum with their most resounding win, an 8-1 handling of the Highlighters. The match started more even than it ended, as both sides probed for weaknesses and pushed each other hard. Halftime found the Canes on top after two early goals by strikers Anthony Minami up the left flank off a steal, and Martella Asbey finding a seam down the middle off a feed from midfielder Savannah Polk.
The Hurricanes regrouped with adjustments at the half and went right to work. Minami, at 12 one of the youngest players in U14 play, continued his scoring outburst across the league with two more quick ones, first up the middle off a steal and then down the left flank off a loose ball that he claimed at midfield and took to the house. Asbey added the fifth tally before water break ended the third quarter of play. Minami easily added Goal 6, his fourth of the match, with a flick of the outside of his right foot from an Asby feed, and that's when Coach Miley brought Minami to the back of his diamond defense for some experience there. The Highlighters picked up their only point on a free kick awarded to their left flank, about 25 yards from frame. The Highlighters coach gave instructions for #10 to shoot on frame, and he did exactly that, lofting a perfect strike to the top right side netting with the most spectacular play of the day. Starting sweeper Josh Sieradzki, who had shifted forward to the stopper position at the top of the defense, then promptly started assaulting the Highlighter net with three long penetrating runs off three steals, resulting in the final two tallies, as the Canes continued their rampage across the league with another runaway showing, 8-1. An injury to the Highlighters Goalkeeper on his final dive to contest Sieradzky's final tally, was handled with a precautionary paramedic call, but that player's X-Rays came up negative and he will be okay.
Across their first encounters with all five opponents the first half of the season, the Hurricanes continue to lead the league in defense with fewest goals allowed (7), and also in attack with most goals scored (27). Goalkeeper Aiden Chittum has one of the league's two shutouts and the least goals allowed among starting goalkeepers (5). Strikers Martella Asbey and Anthony Minami lead the league together with 12 and 11 goals respectively. Josh Sieradzky leads the league's defenders with three tallies of his own, while anchoring the league's only high level defensive system, a diamond formation following schemes of many NCAA and international squads.
The #1 Hurricanes (5-0-0) next face the #3 Typhoons (2-2-1) this Saturday morning, October 21st, at 9:30, also on Field 7.
⚽️ GAME 6:
On Saturday, October 21st, the #1 Hurricanes (5-0-0) began the second half of their fall season with their first rematch, versus their next door neighbors from practice nights, the #3 Typhoons (2-2-1) . Both squads take each other seriously. The two coaches are friendly neighbors on adjacent practice fields, and as the two squads prepared beside one another this week, both coaches and their players expected this match to be a good test. Sporting their royal blue and white, the Hurricanes ran some new college level pregame warm-ups and routines to kick off their homestretch. Defending their own practice pitch, the sky blue and gold Typhoons were itching for a chance to topple the Hurricanes from their perfect beginning.
"We know there's a target on our back now," said Coach Miley. "This is our first year as a club, and we know this may come as a surprise, but we are here to compete. We are here to be a hard working team. We compare ourselves against who we were to find out who we can become. How the score turns out just shows us more about ourselves. Everybody is on board for our best. We are grateful for a competitive league with committed coaches and players. We think we have something very special happening with our family dynamics and support on this squad. These families are all in. The kids feel that. They each are shining within the team framework. They know that our teamwork is really the only thing that makes us special and distinguishes us so far. I don't have to sell them on that anymore, but sometimes I remind them."
The Typhoons won the opening toss and elected to defend the west goal on the cool and cloudy morning. The Hurricanes found themselves back on their heels more than usual at first, as the Typhoons brought pressure in bursts from three or four players. Water break didn't change the Typhoons' strong start, as they finally collected a tally on a miscue from a Hurricanes defender that bounced the ball by his own keeper, frustratingly into their own net. However, the Hurricanes responded in the usual way when down, 0-1. They quickly reached down to fight back. Striker Martella Asbey worked his way by three defenders to tap one into the near netting for his league-leading 13th goal of the season. Shortly afterward, Anthony Minami nailed what turned out to be the winner, and his 12th of the season, by lofting a high arc just over the keeper's outstretched gloves and under the crossbar -- a classic "pull the string shot". The Hurricanes took the upper hand into halftime, and never let go. And today they raised a new flag -- a hurricane warning flag, for their lap around the field before and after each match. The league is on notice: the upstarts are serious.
Next Saturday, October 28th, the #1 Hurricanes (6-0-0) will face the #2 Rip Tide (3-2-1) for the late match at 11:00 on Field 9. A win or a tie would clinch the first place medal for the Hurricanes in Week 7 of a 9-game season, but the Hurricanes are more interested in competing with themselves, or at least, their former selves.
"We'll expect to be tested again," Coach Miley said. "The Tide doesn't know us as well as the Typhoons do. However, they were upset today by the Rangers, a team that does know them well from scrimmages on adjacent practice fields. Kids at this age thrive on confidence and momentum, and one thing sure about our kids, is they don't like trailing in a match whatsoever. In general, we focus a lot more on who we are than who the other guys are. I have learned to appreciate our squad's indignant responses to the three 0-1 deficits we have immediately overcome. That's half our games starting on the wrong foot, but quickly reclaimed. It's just part of our identity now, to come back with fury if a team goes up on us. I credit the kids for that extra snarl. That's theirs."
The Hurricanes brushed by the Typhoons narrowly both times, yet the experience of handling a challenge has only stiffened the resolve of the young squad. Most of the Hurricanes are just turning 12 or 13 in a U14 league with players taller, bigger, and older. But Miley has emphasized the ground game. "It's a world sport for people of all sizes. Most of soccer is played on the floor anyway," he says. "Our younger kids are closer to the floor."
For the Hurricanes, this first season together is more about finding out and believing in who they are than about beating an opponent. That is the key message requiring complete buy-in.
"And we are getting full buy-in from everybody," says Miley. "There's plenty of heart and willingness here for the coaches to work with, to rally this group forward. We are a hard working winning team and we know our teamwork is what makes us special. What's best of all about all this is how our team feels the team behind them -- our families. This is really for our families coming together around something extraordinary, and that something extraordinary is these kids working together the way they do. I know our parents are very proud to see their sixth and seventh graders outmatching eighth and ninth graders. There's a confidence gained here in some principles that really work and really matter. We may lose a few battles in life, but people who win across big distances together always buy into the same age-old principles. I think this team can win every battle, because they get it."
⚽️ GAME 7:
On Saturday, October 28th, at the 11:00 match, the #1 Ocala Hurricanes (7-0-0) clinched the U14 Big Sun title with a 3-1 win versus the #2 Rip Tide (3-3-1). The young Hurricanes pulled down tallies from three different players as they continued their perfect run.
Ocala's Big Sun U14 league's top two squads prepared carefully through Week 7 for their rematch. For the Tide, a loss or a tie would bounce them from any chance at a comeback run for the title. With younger, smaller players, the Hurricanes emphasized their passing and quick transitions from college level drills. Their recycling "wave defense" from diamond formation was braced to overcome taller, stronger players with a sort of organized swarm of traffic designed to isolate and disconnect the Rip Tide's top strikers and steer them out to the touchlines if they tried to do too much on their own. It worked.
In their first meeting, the Hurricanes cruised into a 5-0 halftime lead, and then switched everyone into different positions for more experience, for a 7-2 finish that ended their contender's undefeated bid, while adding to their own perfect beginning. This time, the Rip Tide won the toss and elected to defend the east goal with the sun at their backs. The Hurricanes faced taller players and a blinding October sun, but went right to work. Once again, the Hurricanes struck first. A few minutes in, one of the league's youngest players, Caitlyn Connolly, claimed a loose ball at midfield, and slid a perfect feed to another 12-year-old, Anthony Minami, who calmly buried his 13th score past the Tide's goalkeeper, with a little smile that got his teammates smiling with him. The game was on.
Before halftime, a Tide handball visible to both benches was missed by the referee who was screened by some traffic. The Tide capitalized with a tying goal to end the first frame. This would be the only halftime finding the Hurricanes not in the lead. They handled the challenge in stride.
Before the second water break, defensive midfielder Ryan Dennis, one of the Hurricanes' three eighth graders, took a throw-in from rookie right back Quadarius Mitchell, and decided it was time to break loose from his defensive assignment, launching a deeply determined run from his defensive end past three more opponents to make his first goal of the season the winner that would clinch the Canes championship. The absolute grit and determination of this play by Ryan Dennis will likely remain in the memory of teammates, coaches, and cheering families as the charge that captured the spirit of the 2017 Ocala Hurricanes. How fitting that one of the only older players would seize such a moment to lead the young squad in such a way that blew the ceiling off his own defensive assignment and turned it for the championship tally. Nobody could have scripted anything more heroic for a harder working team player.
With ten minutes left, the Hurricanes landed their big insurance goal when league-leading scorer Martella Asbey took a feed from sweeper Josh Sieradzki on a dead run, maneuvered past two defenders, and decisively hammered his 14th goal in 7 matches past the Tide keeper and into the right netting, settling the rematch as a 3-1 Canes victory. Now widening their separation at three-and-half games ahead of the Tide as their nearest contender in the cluster behind them, the Ocala Hurricanes emerge as the early champion of the U14 division, with a perfect record to defend on their homestretch.
"Drill-supported teamwork with a clear team philosophy is the secret that we don't mind sharing," said Coach Miley. "Mentally and physically, our younger squad has remained ready to excel. We are all proud of them. Any distinguishing advantage we enjoy always comes down to cultivating our identity as a hard working team. That's who we are together. Only a team can beat a team. We want to challenge other teams with the best teamwork, isolating their best individuals until they get the message. We haven't met our match yet only because of the complete buy-in and hard wirk with the basics. For us, that's fun," Coach Miley smiled.
"Our team showed up with the same focus again," the Canes coach emphasized. "We compete against who we were to find out who we can become. Ryan Dennis wasn't joking with his winning strike. We are serious about our fun through the pursuit of excellence. Today was no different, except that we're better as planned. We are a real team, and we're better every week because that's the design of us. Give us another short season and we'd like to test ourselves against a select team. The league handed us their best idea of a batch of kids that would be competitive on par with other kids in this rec level, but I would select this team out of the whole town for this age level. There's a whole lot to work with here when you recognize how these families have come together behind a group we all believe in. We find our heroes in different ways every time. Ryan was our hero today."
"Our team showed up with the same focus again," the Canes coach emphasized. "We compete against who we were to find out who we can become. Ryan Dennis wasn't joking with his winning strike. Today was no different. We are a real team. We find our heroes in different ways every time."
⚽️ GAME 8 REPORT: CANES STAY PERFECT
On Saturday, November 4th, the early champion Ocala Hurricanes extended their perfect season through Game 8, taking a rematch over the Power Rangers, 4-1. Rangers Head Coach Steve Tweedle informed Hurricanes Head Coach Fred Miley that he had only 8 players, so Miley dropped his starting lineup from the normal 9 down to 8 to even the sides. "We were missing Emma, one of our top defenders with one of the best attendance records," said Miley, "but they were missing three or four of their players. We had three subs and they had none. In Game 1 with the Rangers, we held on for a tough win with no subs while they had three. That was the only time we played with no subs. Our good attendance comes with the enthusiasm of being part of something very special this season. We will take every edge toward excellence as a team, and really, that starts with basic attendance. Business teams build on strong attendance, too, and these are the points I emphasize with our kids. They know we are in this for life lessons, not just soccer lessons."
The Hurricanes never trailed and never looked back. Tri-Captain Anthony Minami won the 9:30 A.M. coin toss and elected to defend the east goal, placing the bright November sun behind his league-leading goalkeeper Aiden Chittum. Chittum needed only two saves behind another strong outing from his diamond defense. He again stepped up to his regular numbers and respected name in the league, allowing only one goal. Minami, second in U14 scoring with 15 goals, trails only teammate Martella Asbey with 16 goals. The red hot tandem maintained their blistering pace, each adding two more tallies toward the convincing win over the feisty Rangers. "Our kids heard some of their kids jawing before the game about how they were going to beat us -- regular kids' stuff -- but we've stayed away from pregame sabre-rattling. Our kids have been hearing chatter from older players on other squads since Game 3 as we started pulling ahead, so they're used to it now, and they follow our plan through that. Don't engage. It's always good for winners and future leaders like this bunch to experience a target on their back," said Coach Miley. The Hurricanes never trailed and never looked back. Tri-Captain Anthony Minami won the 9:30 A.M. coin toss and elected to defend the east goal, placing the bright November sun behind his league-leading goalkeeper Aiden Chittum. Chittum needed only two saves behind another strong outing from his diamond defense. He again stepped up to his regular numbers and respected name in the league, allowing only one goal. Minami, second in U14 scoring with 15 goals, trails only teammate Martella Asbey with 16 goals. The red hot tandem maintained their blistering pace, each adding two more tallies toward the convincing win over the feisty Rangers. "Our kids heard some of their kids jawing before the game about how they were going to beat us -- regular kids' stuff -- but we've stayed away from pregame sabre-rattling. Our kids have been hearing chatter from older players on other squads since Game 3 as we started pulling ahead, so they're used to it now, and they follow our plan through that. Don't engage. It's always good for winners and future leaders like this bunch to experience a target on their back," said Coach Miley.
Being a younger squad invites even more provocative chatter than most winning squads generally hear, but the Hurricanes are taking these little challenges to the bank and cashing them in. "Coaches can't stop kids from chatter, but we can teach them how little it matters," Miley observed. "This is a very bright bunch, and they are keeping successes in perspective and turning their challenges into successes. Losing a battle can't hold a winner down from the war, and winning a battle can't make a winner smug. One of the hardest things for middle schoolers is to establish and foster their own team work ethic. When they can brand their own ethics as their own, they start to become a team. Coaches need buy-in from everybody. It's an age when kids usually like to get noticed individually. What's special is how they are finding unselfish and supportive expressions of their talents toward shared excellence this season. They really have each other's backs. I'm proud of them for that," their coach added.
The first fifteen minutes looked a bit like the early stages of an even match, but the Hurricanes picked up the first goal just after the first water break from a long feed by sweeper Josh Sieradzky up to Asbey, who promptly bypassed two defenders and the keeper for an early edge that the Hurricanes would always hold. The eventual winning goal soon followed when Minami looked away and juked away three defenders for a 2-0 start. The Rangers answered with a breakaway counterattack that caught Sieradzki forward of his stopper on a recovery run. #11 scored for the Rangers to keep them close, finishing the first frame with the Hurricanes up, 2-1. The second half was all Hurricanes after a stout halftime talk and the eventual edge of fresh legs and excellent conditioning on the side of the league champs. "We played a rotating, shifting triangle in front of our diamond," said Miley. "That creative activity seemed to cross up their marking assignments. We always prefer to have a full squad out there to bring the full impact of our passing game. This was a wide open 8v8 match with big lanes for the best athletes to make their moves. Still, we had more passing than they did, plus fresh legs. This match was tilting our way by the twentieth minute."
Soon after the second half settled into some more Hurricane rhythm, Asbey fed his frontline buddy Minami an assist for the third goal, and followed that with another score of his own off a steal in the final ten minutes, sealing the solid win, 4-1. The Hurricanes thanked the referee and their opponents, and ran their big hurricane warning flag around the field as they thanked their families and fans with high fives along the opposite touchline.
"We heard them talking, Coach," said midfielder Zander Lema after the game. "But we were ready."
At 9:30 again next Saturday morning, November 11th, the Hurricanes will test their 8-0-0 record on the 1-5-2 Ninjas. "I saw the Ninjas give the Rip Tide a hard fight in the late match today," said Coach Miley. "Any one of these teams can stand up to any opponent on any given Saturday," Miley noted. "The Ninjas have some fighters and they are always competing."
Every week the young Hurricanes seem to understand they will have to play smart and tough to overcome some talented older athletes on the other side, with steady support on attack and defense as the best answer for any talk. The Hurricanes are finding out what they can do and who they can be together. This is the unfolding of a team that expects excellence of themselves.
"We know our hard work is smart work when it's teamwork," said Coach Miley. "We will need to keep our heads in this one with the Ninjas, just as in every other challenge."
GAME 9 REPORT: CANES COLLECT CHAMPIONSHIP MEDALS
On November 11th, the Hurricanes faced the Ninjas for their Week 9 rematch. The Ninjas had to forfeit when only four players showed up. The Hurricanes donated four of their own dozen players to even the scrimmage match at 8 v 8. Martella Asbey scored four times for the original Hurricanes squad while central defender Josh Sieradzki made three runs from the back line for three goals of his own... going the other way against his teammates. SieradzkI led the rebellion against his mates along with goalkeeper Aiden Chittum, defender Kaleigh Beers, and striker Nate Ruiz. The match ended up exciting and very even as the original Hurricanes worked their diamond defense to a 4-1 lead, only to watch it slip into a barn burner when Sieradzky would not relent. The Hurricanes were awarded their first place medals a week early, and will face the Highlighters and possibly the league's all-stars next Saturday, to finish the season.
We'll see if the league musters some all-stars to step up to our challenge at 1:00," Coach Miley said after the match. "So far we have heard back only from the Highlighters and Rip Tide coaches. We think we can make it a perfect season, even if the league sends us their best. As always, we will need to show up and work hard as a team."
⚽️ GAME 10 REPORT: CANES COMPLETE PERFECT SEASON
In U14 Big Sun action this morning, the Ocala Hurricanes hammered out an 11-0 win over the Highlighters, the young championship squad's third shutout to finish out their 10-0-0 perfect season. Three players notched hat tricks in front of Goalkeeper Aiden Chittum, who needed only three saves aback his rock solid diamond defense. In goalkeeping, Chittum finishes the 2017 fall season at the top of the league, having allowed only 0.9 goals per match. Meanwhile, striker Martella Asbey ended as the league's scoring king with another hat trick and 23 goals on the season, also notably having scored in every match. The Hurricanes allowed only 10 goals on the season, thanks to a diamond defense spearheaded by Kaleigh Beers and Savannah Polk, flanked by Emma Wood and Quadarius Mitchell, and anchored by sweeper Josh Sieradzki, who led the league in goals scored by a defender with ten on the season, more than most strikers ever pick up in ten matches.
The marauding tandem of Canes strikers Martella Asbey with 23 goals and Anthony Minami, second in the league behind his teammate with 18 goals, combined for an incredible 41 goals in ten matches. What team ever has two players stacking over forty goals in ten matches? The Hurricanes. What team runs attacks from the back of their own defense? The Hurricanes. What team ignores age and size disadvantages for excellence? The Hurricanes. What team never wants a season to end? The Hurricanes. What team hits teams an average of five times as hard is it gets hit? The Hurricanes. But what makes this team different? Just a few basics, according to their coach.
"That tandem of Asbey and Minami may have set a league record with 41 tallies on the season," said Coach Miley, "and unless anyone can verify otherwise, we will claim it. We also think 50 goals on the ten-game season may be a U14 record until and unless we hear otherwise. Ten goals for a defender in ten matches also is unheard of at any level. Sieradzki was off the chain this year. He was an artist in motion when it came to catching other teams extended too far into our zone. He made them pay for that ten times."
The Hurricanes averaged 5.0 goals scored and only 1.0 goals allowed per match. "We had the complete package because we prepared ourselves as a complete team," said Miley. "Our strikers were constantly drilled against the best defensive formation and players in the league, and our goalkeeper Aiden Chittum also proved to be the best. People didn't know it, but we all know from our practices that if we didn't need Ryan Dennis at midfield, he would have shown the whole league that he was the best goalkeeper, too. The next best defense in the league gave up 2.4 goals a match on these 70 x 30 fields, and we gave up 1.0. We can thank a few familiar college level drills and a lot of attention and hard work from our kids for our results. We didn't have a lot of standing around during drills, but we did have our sit-downs for strategies and concepts. Concepts were clear and applications were prompt. Soccer begins from the back of any team, and our defenders learned enough diamond dynamics to isolate and lock out the most athletic and skilled attackers. Really, the best goals against us were amazing strikes from distance or an occasional set of excellent moves on a penetrating run by an older player, like ESPN highlights. We didn't usually let teams work their regular game into our back bubble. As the youngest squad, we ran away from the competition when all was said and done. These families have plenty to be proud of. Their kids will always remember the power of true teamwork from this season, because all their families were behind them. Our family unity made our team unity. There was no stopping our momentum once we could feel the truth of who we are together as a team."
Match 10 with the Highlighters started with 6 v 6, well down from the usual 9 v 9. Hurricanes Coach Fred Miley had ten players to Coach Darren Johnson's six. They had played 7 v 7 their first match because the Highlighters were down to 7 that week. Miley's squad picked up the first and winning goal with six players, but he explained to Coach Johnson that he was not prepared to sit four players, and rather than call it a forfeit or sitting too many players, Miley played 7 v 6 after the first goal was notched as the winner.
"We were planning on ending the season the way we began it -- with a defensive shutout," said Miley, "and that's what we did. I believed we needed just one goal to win this, and Anthony found the first score fast, so the rest of the match was a series of substitutions."
Striker Anthony Minami scored another off a steal to follow his first. "That second goal by Anthony came so fast that it really gripped the rest of the match for us," said Miley. "It was like he got them to sign over their rights to the contest with his authority on that steal and strike."
For the Canes' third tally, right striker Nate Ruiz took a breakaway fifth assist from rookie of the year right back Quadarius Mitchell, shook a defender, and buried his second score of the season. Before first water break, sweeper Josh Sieradzki staged his first of four raids on the Highlighters net from his own end.
"That was beyond a hat trick," said his coach of Sieradzki's four-goal outburst. "That's not what defenders usually do, but Josh is not your usual defender. He knows he has my green light to hammer any weakness he finds. He is a wonderful defender, and keenly detects where another defense is weak. He understands the element of surprise can become a weapon in martial arts; that makes him a nightmare to coach against and a dream to coach. We want our kids making their own decisions out there. I knew my defenders had the right mindset to lock out the two opposing strikers. They were skilled, but we disconnected them from one another, and by halftime, had six of our own players involved with our first five goals. Anthony with his quick early strikes and Josh with his pirate ship raids, along with Martella and Nate slashing away at the front is how we ended the season. Aiden was just smiling behind all that. People who worked it out the most were Zander and Savannah and Ryan in the midfield, pressuring anything the other guys wanted to try, and winning loose balls. Our wing backs, Emma and Q, were lights out as usual. We were missing Caitlin and Kaleigh and Coach Chris (Rosa) today, and we wish they could have been with us for the final shots fired and our pizza party, but the holidays are closing in, so we finished with these ten. We are really twelve."
Miley cites the unity of the families as the key to their perfection on the season. "This belongs to the families. Coach Chris, too. He led our kids well and helped them stay connected and encouraged. This also belongs to our team mom Audrey Asbey and all our parents, for the same reason. Our kids were truly connected with all our families behind them. They absolutely felt that. It was a convincing finish to a great season."
League leading scorer Martella Asbey opened up another hat trick of his own with his first goal of the day before halftime, cashing in on a Ryan Dennis feed. The second half figured to be a runaway with all ten well-conditioned Canes players rotating through the lineup, and it was. Five scores flooded the third quarter: Sieradzki with a big hello from the back again, Asbey in full stride from a Minami feed, Minami with a hard strike from distance, and Sieradzki on two more merciless raids before final water break. The fourth quarter opened with an immediate Asbey tally from another Minami feed, and that is how the Hurricanes ended their ten-game season with 50 goals. Those eleven unanswered goals pushed the whistle early as the fourth quarter became unreasonable. The Hurricanes players really wanted to face the league's all-stars on their familiar Field 7 at the 1:00 challenge time, but only two out of the other five coaches showed interest in assembling any such all-star squad. "We had ten ready," Miley volleyed into the silence of the end.
"We know we ended as ready as we began, only a lot better at soccer now, and a lot more confident that there wasn't anything here we couldn't handle. We're not ashamed of our excellence or our vision for that. Establishing excellence in anything is a great accomplishment and feeling for kids this age. It's what will be expected of them in future endeavors. And they know they are remembered more for how they finish something than how they start. This season they finished ready for more than anyone could bring. They feel good about that. About as good as they would have felt stepping up to the league's best if the all-stars had answered our challenge," said their coach.
With almost all sixth and seventh graders facing kids a head taller throughout the season, Miley's squad learned early to let their soccer do the talking when there was any chatter. Maybe also because the season was stretched an extra week due to Hurricane Irma, an extra soccer match didn't seem especially inviting from a squad that nobody could topple. The Hurricanes players know their challenge was voiced to all the other coaches by their coach and declined. "That final challenge was the right way for our team to finish their journey, even though it was a bit awkward among the coaches. What matters here is that our young players know they could have taken this season a lot farther. They found their rhythm and identity in their teamwork and did not want that to end. The buy-in on the basics became confidence and enthusiasm toward excellence. That's one way to know things are going as they should. Nobody ever needs to apologize for excellence. Whenever a championship team hits the highest mark of a perfect season, no matter the style, the most classic reasons are always there. After awards are handed out and our families have time to reflect, the new friendships and our team website will keep alive the reasons we became the perfect Hurricanes. We were not just kicking a ball."
Players signed over the team flag to Miley at the final pizza party, and their team poster now hangs on the walk-in "wall of fame" at the area's best New York pizzeria, La Famiglia, along with Yankees and Scarface memorabilia, but there is more to the ending. The 2017 Ocala Hurricanes will never stop connecting as a team with the memories, and their way forward in life.
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⚽️ GAME 3 REPORT
In Big Sun Youth Soccer U15 action Saturday (4/7), the 2018 Ocala Hurricanes continued their spring opening streak from last fall's perfect 10-0-0 run, with a 2-0 win for a third consecutive shutout. The Canes landed both goals in the first half for the defense to hang on perfectly once again. The new Hurricanes return four players from the perfect fall team, as every squad is significantly "jumbled" each season. The four returning players are: Aiden Chittum (#14) still tending goal, Josh Sieradzky (#7) still anchoring the diamond defense, and Martella Asbey (#13) and Anthony Minami (#10) on the striking line.
The new additions are helping the squad start very strong, outscoring opponents, 11-0, in their first three outings. Anthony's older brother Daniel Minami (#15) has blown up the left side of the midfield with intense hard work, a lot of steals, and many crafty counterattacks. The Liles sisters, Railey (#3) at left defender, and Laney (#2) at striker and midfield, have added tremendous positive energy and smart choices with the ball. Eric Osornio (#11) has stormed into the stopper position and Zach Kaiser (#9) locks down the right side of "Chittum's Wall", taking the Canes diamond defense to a new level of awesome. Nathan "Q" Quiroz (#16) has stepped up ferociously as a defensive midfielder on strict marking assignments, while Caleb Lombardo (#4) has exploded on the scene with three goals at the point of the spear, redefining the center striker position with a creativity/energy combination that only Caleb can bring. Angie Loforte (#5) and Kennedy Engelhardt (#6) bring quickness and endurance with solid teamwork to the striking and midfield lines, while Shelby Davis (#12) is the squad's fastest striker generating new chances on net. Finally, the new leading playmaker and "quarterback" of the squad at central midfield, is Justin Arroyo (#8) who brings awareness and skill together at the hub of counterattacks and passing setups for a Hurricanes strike. A contingency of teammates from Ocala's Trinity Prep champion squad (Aiden, Anthony, and Justin) have spread their winning sense of team throughout these new Hurricanes.
"For this level particularly, and remarkably so early in the season, the passing is coming together beautifully," said Coach Miley. "The families are turning out in great supporting force, the players are working hard in practice to build our identity as a team, and the fun is absolutely electric. We have some real personalities stepping up together, and we're having a good time!"
The Hurricanes won their first match over Aqua, 4-0, their second match over Gray, 5-0, and their most recent match yesterday, 2-0, over the Burgundy squad. "That diamond defense has a way without words," said Miley. "We're calling it Chittum's Wall. They have shushed up everybody so far."
⚽️ GAME 4 REPORT
On Saturday, April 14th, both of Ocala's undefeated U15 soccer squads matched up at the midseason point to find they would both remain undefeated, as they remained scoreless for a 0-0 draw. The Ocala Hurricanes held a steady edge over Kevin Gorman's blue squad throughout the match with about 75% possession time, holding the ball deep for plenty of chaotic scrambles as the blue squad bunkered back and made a variety of heroic dives and slides to keep the ball out of their net. The Hurricanes kept storming their gates, out-shooting the blue squad 7-1, out-chancing them 15-3, and doubling up the corner kicks, 4-2, but none of those numbers mattered on the scoresheet, as the blue squad's fans celebrated and the Hurricanes settled for the hard fought draw.
"I didn't have to do much" Hurricanes goalkeeper Aiden Chittum said afterward. "Our defense made it really easy for me." Indeed, Chittum had to work a lot harder to preserve a 2-0 win over the Burgundy squad the Saturday before, with 7 saves required instead of only one.
"Four consecutive shutouts is not bad for any squad," said Coach Miley of "Aiden's Wall".
"Any coach knows you build a soccer squad from the back forward," Miley noted. "Our back defenders are minimizing mistakes, but we were playing aggressive defensive all over the pitch pretty much anytime they touched it. We have the only solid wall in the league. Nobody has touched our net halfway through this season. That's something we can take forward from this match."
Both sides were resilient and fought very hard. The Hurricanes obviously had the younger side, with only one player who is fifteen, and everybody else in middle school. Nevertheless, their edge was in their passing.
"You don't need age or size for good passing," said Miley. "You just need good communication with a work ethic, and we have that. Our kids worked as hard as they do in practice to control this match with passing. Usually that results in a win, but there are never any guarantees in soccer. Each match has a storyline, no matter the score. We were stringing together seven and eight consecutive passes five or more times in each half, and I never saw more than three consecutive passes for our opponent. That's why most of the match was on their end, and that is something else to take forward. It's always easier to possess than chase, and we had them gassed."
Indeed, both sides left everything on the field as morning breezes gave way to the high noon heat hitting the 80s In Florida's horse country.
"Our kids were wanting more time for this match to tumble our way," said Miley, "and I know they are mentally replaying some of the golden chances missed. They'll be looking forward to seeing this blue squad again for the final match. Bobby Herndon, the league director, stepped in for Coach Gorman's absence, and did an excellent job marshalling his strongest players back to hang onto that 0-0 draw. Our goalkeeper needed only one save for an actual shot on frame, and came out a couple of times to disrupt a couple of other chances. Bobby leaned on a few fast breaks for their chances, but they were usually stopped before they could get close. Really, our diamond defense just did another great job sending the battles elsewhere."
The Hurricanes finished the match with a few more deep rushes into the blue squad's penalty area, but squandered their shots wide or over the bar from within spitting distance of open net. "We ran strong till the end," said Miley, "but just didn't finish. I told our kids there's a story to every match. This match was ours to take, but we didn't take it. We did a lot of things we are looking for, but missed the finishing touches on more than a few golden chances. It's a perfect match to build on, because it will make us work harder to properly finish our opportunities -- one of life's greatest lessons."
CANES STAY UNDEFEATED, UNSCORED UPON
On a breezy Saturday in Florida's horse country, the Ocala Hurricanes silenced a fifth straight opponent, 3-0, continuing their perfect string of shutouts as the youngest squad in their U14 league.
"It's amazing to me how we could start this U15 season with 9 kids not even in their teens yet, and then simply silence all of our opponents with five shutouts in our first five outings. I've never heard of anything like it in youth soccer," said their coach, Fred Miley. "These defenders can be very proud of each other and how they have gelled. They have learned through many reps in practice how to operate a high level diamond formation under a variety of overloads. And now this league of older players is at a loss trying to crack their code. They are a team within a team that refuses to crack. In fifteen seasons as a player and sixteen seasons as a coach, I have never seen five consecutive shutouts for a squad. The only strikers who seem to be able to occasionally beat this diamond are on our team, and that happens only in practice with severe overloads. We run all ten of our other players at our diamond over and over in practice, and only the best plays will occasionally find the net. We call them "Aiden's Wall", and Aiden shows up for business as the last man. It is amazing to watch five players hold off ten players as well as they do. What they do in practice is way more amazing than what they do in matches."
With their coach raving and their families buzzing, Ocala's top U15 squad faced their practice field neighbor, the red squad under Peruvian Coach Cesar Tambini, who tended goal at a national level for Peru. "We were very excited to take on Coach Cesar's team," said Miley, "because we always see each other's hard workouts and keep wondering who is better. He has a very big heart for all of our league's kids, and donated some of his time to help our goalkeeper Aiden earlier in the season, when I asked for him to share his goalkeeping expertise. He did so not only willingly, but with enthusiasm. I respect how Cesar coaches, and their squad actually has a lot in common with our work ethic and passing priority, but I think our diamond made the difference again for us today."
The Canes picked up an early goal from Justin Arroyo to take a slight edge into halftime, and proceeded to lock down the match against a stiffening breeze with a goal from seventh grader Anthony Minami from distance, and an inswinger off a late corner kick from Arroyo. The Hurricanes out-shot the red squad, 18-7, and tallied 12 corner kicks while allowing none. "We still need to capitalize better on our opportunities," Coach Miley acknowledged, "but we did a lot of things we wanted to do today, especially holding it in their back third of the pitch. Our strikers and midfielders worked hard to keep the chaos going on their end, and our defenders just said no again."
The Hurricanes are at the top of the league with 14 goals in five outings, but the five straight shutouts is becoming a phenomenon that the kids in the diamond want to extend. "Railey completely rocked a winger who was trying to get by her, when she took him with a fierce and legal tackle in the first half, and the rest of the diamond stepped up with play after play, coming off Railey's fearlessness, to keep that hard hustling team down to just a few real chances. Our defense is creating a name for themselves back there. They don't make many mistakes, and that is why they are back there. That is the only shutout Coach Cesar's squad has suffered. Our diamond has very quietly silenced all five of our opponents. Nobody has found our net. Aiden's Wall is real."
The 4-0-1 Hurricanes take their league leading momentum into next Saturday's rematch versus the Gray squad, in the 9:30 early slot on Field 7 again. "This is our only early match," said Coach Miley. "We want our players to bed early the night before and ready with an early breakfast."
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