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The Perfect Storm: Hurricanes Finish 10-0-0
Nov. 18, 2017
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 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. Sometimes a match swivels on one player or one player or one play. This was such a match."
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. Soccer is about making adjustments to defend, keeping transitions swift and automatic, and finding creases to advance. Josh is a complete player who gets all that at a young age. 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 and well coached, 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 the midfield trenches with big hustle were Zander and Savannah and Ryan, pressuring anything the other guys wanted to try, and winning loose balls. Our wingbacks, Emma and Q, were lights out as usual. We were missing Caitlin and Kaleigh and Coach Chris (Rosa) today, and 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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