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⚽️ Game 8 Report: Canes Stay Perfect
Nov. 4, 2017
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.
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 Sieradzky 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."
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