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⚽️ GAME 7 REPORT: HURRICANES CLINCH U14 TITLE
Oct. 28, 2017
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 younger squad would strike 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 (#11), one of the Hurricanes' two eighth graders, took a quick long throw from rookie right back Quadarius Mitchell (#3), and decided it was time to break loose from his strict defensive assignment, catching the Tide overextended with a deeply determined run from his defensive end up the right touchline, past three more opponents, to hit his first goal of the season -- a left-footed blast from the top of the box. This spectacular strike (see photos below) proved to be the game 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 his young mates, all the way from the back end, at the right moment, for the championship tally. Nobody could have scripted anything more heroic for a harder working team player. And for first timer Mitchell, that was already his fourth assist from the back line. "Q's eyes for the opportunity opened up Ryan's run," Coach Miley noted. "They felt the chance together and took it from our house to their house."
With ten minutes left, the Hurricanes landed their big insurance goal when league-leading scorer Martella Asbey (#13) took a feed from sweeper Josh Sieradzki (#7) 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 work 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."
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