PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA
Last weekend, five of our teams left the cold New England weather behind for sunny Florida to compete in the EDP Spring Kickoff in Palm Beach Gardens. The tournament presents a unique opportunity for Northern teams to get valuable competitive minutes during the winter months at incredible facilities in the sunshine state in order to gear up for the fast-approaching Spring Season.
Rhode Island Surf fielded five teams consisting of B2010 Elite, B2010 Central, G2010 Central, B2011 Elite Blue and B2013 Blue coached by Scott Graham, Lucas Santos, Max Philpott, Martin Yarumian and Dan Yarumian, respectively. In a bid to challenge themselves, the two Central teams stepped outside of New England for the very first time, a test that both Santos and Philpott were relishing. Out of the five that made the trip, both B2011 Elite Blue and B2013 Blue were able to come out on top in their respective brackets.
B2011 ELITE BLUE
At their last EDP event, B2011 Elite Blue managed to stay unbeaten before losing the final in a heartbreaking shootout. This time around, their determination to not repeat this scenario was evident from the first kick of a ball. With a perfect record of 4-0 and zero goals conceded (notably down to a penalty save by goalkeeper Nick Bequary in their final game), business was taken care of emphatically.
Upon their return to the Ocean State, Coach Martin Yarumian had this to say about his team's triumph and the event, "The EDP Spring Kickoff in Florida was a fantastic experience for the coaches and players involved. From the immaculate grass fields, the beautiful weather, and top competition, it was a great event to have in our winter program. Our boys 2011 Elite Blue won all four games and whilst keeping four clean sheets against quality competition. To be able to go out there, after a few months off of live games and play the way we did, shows the talent and character of the boys in the team. I'm hoping we can use this as a springboard to another great spring season."
After struggling at the EDP Fall Classic, Coach Dan Yarumian and B2013 Blue were ready to right the ship in Palm Beach Gardens. To say they followed through on this promise is an understatement, as the boys performed excellently behind lead roles from Surf Select Player of the Year nominee Oscar Kincaid and forwards Carter Cathers and Louie Lang. With a record of three wins and one draw, they were able to top their bracket and return to the Ocean State as champions.
"The EDP Spring Kickoff in Florida was a great way to break up our long winter season and get some legitimate 9v9 games against quality opponents," said Yarumian, "The fields and atmosphere out there were absolutely amazing for the boys! It was another great experience for them to keep seeing what is outside of New England following our trip to New Jersey in November. I believe playing against tougher and tougher competition brings out more in you as a player and forces you to compete harder and bring your A-game consistently. We went from really struggling in New Jersey in November, to winning our bracket in Florida this past weekend. I am extremely pleased with the growth of the group and their competitive nature this weekend. I definitely would love to continue to travel for these types of tournaments during the winter months to challenge my teams!"
Following their second-place finish at the EDP Fall Classic, Coach Scott Graham and B2010 Elite once again left New England in search of quality competition as they build towards their Spring season in the USYS National League. Despite a run of unfortunate results in the Sunshine State, a strong defensive display left the group with optimism as they returned home.
"Our Boys 2010 Elite team faced good quality teams in the three group stage games," said Graham, "It's important to play challenging games, as we learn the most from them. I thought we defended well for large periods of the games and responded well to some setbacks. The players showed a strong mentality, which is hugely important as we go into the spring league, state cup and hopefully Regionals."
Seizing the opportunity to expose his Central team to challenges outside of New England, Coach Max Philpott brought his G2010 group to Florida with hopes of stiff tests that would prepare his team for the tough NECSL season ahead. On their second day of play, the team was able to come away with a hard-fought 1-0 win, a promising showing from a group that was getting their first taste of soccer outside of New England.
Philpott had this to say on the group's weekend, "The EDP Spring Kickoff was a fantastic chance for us to get out of our comfort zone and play against some top DPL and USYS Conference opposition. The opportunity to play four games allowed us to work on; deploying varied formations, implementing individual / team feedback and improving overall fitness.
Seeing the girls compete well against top teams shows us where we’re at and I couldn’t be more proud of this group for their work and development as a team so far this season."
With similar goals in mind, Coach Lucas Santos and B2010 Central arrived in Florida looking to challenge themselves in unknown territory competition-wise. Despite a tough weekend of results, the team was pleased with the experience and valuable lessons they were able to take back North with them.
Speaking on the event and how his group faired, Coach Lucas had this to say, "This was the first time the B2010 Central group had a chance to compete in a tournament outside of New England. Although the results didn't land in our favor, we faced strong competition against some of the best teams in the country. This turned out to be a great learning experience on how to play and behave on the field during adversities, compact our defensive lines and work on effective communication and team leadership during those moments. There were a lot of positive points to bring back to Rhode Island and implement in our upcoming tournaments and Spring season. Experience of a lifetime for this group!"
TAMPA BAY, FLORIDA
At the turn of the year, girls teams from across the county traveled to Tampa Bay, Florida for the chance to compete and impress at the DPL Winter Showcase. With over 150 college coaches in attendance, the event served as the ultimate opportunity for players to put their talents on display.
Rhode Island was well represented by our G2009 Elite, G2008 Elite Blue, G2008 Elite White, G2007 Elite Blue and G05/06 Elite teams. "The DPL Winter Showcase is an event we see a huge amount of value in," said Girls Director Aleksej Skundric, "As well as the opportunity to get our players in front of College coaches (over 150 in attendance) the event runs at a very useful part of the season. With our senior team players coming back from the High School season mid-November, getting 11v11 games in the Florida weather at this point in the season is immensely beneficial to teams and individual players alike. All of our teams got excellent competition and in addition it is always nice to enjoy a bit of success. Congratulations to our G2009 Elite and G2008 Elite Blue for winning their respective brackets."
G2009 Elite faced a schedule consisting of Florida Hawks FC, Charlotte Development Academy, and Arkansas Comets FC. Martin Yarumian, who recently took charge of the group, had this to say about their experience, "The DPL Winter Showcase was a great way to restart from our club's winter break. The Showcase provided quality competition and a great facility to start the new year. Our 2009 Elite girls were able to top the bracket and win all three games. The girls grew stronger and improved their style of play as the tournament went on which, for me, was the most rewarding of it all. In the final game, a goal with under a minute left, saw our girls take the lead and win the group. To see them happy and excited made all the preparation work worth it. We'll look to bring the momentum to Dallas, TX, in March, for the DPL Summit."
The team won 5-1 in their first outing and 2-1 in their following two games to finish as bracket winners.
G2008 Elite White's schedule featured Florida United SC, AFC Lightning, and Roswell Santos SC. "Playing at the DPL Winter Showcase is always fun because you get to play teams from around the country and those teams will often be at different points in their soccer season. In our opening game we played a team from Georgia who were at the tail end of their club soccer season so they were closer to their peak. In our second game we played a local Florida team who didn't face the burden of travel. Two quality tests for us in which we were able to show enormous character and defensive commitment starting from our striker all the way back to the goalkeeper. Our use of the ball got better with each half we played as we were able to work ourselves out of habits developed over the HS season. Two ties as far as results go but two big wins as far as what those games gave us," said G2008 Elite White Coach Aleksej Skundric.
The group finished with two ties from two games played as a result of weather cancelling their third game.
G2008 Elite Blue went up against Southern Soccer Academy, West Florida Flames, and New England Surf. Coach Jim McGirr reflected on their tournament with these words, "The DPL Showcase in Tampa proved to be a success for our 2008 Elite Blue team with dominant performances and results which allowed us to win our bracket. The event comes at a perfect time during the long winter months to keep us sharp and competitive. Playing against other strong DPL teams from across the country, will hopefully give us the springboard we need going into future showcases and our upcoming spring competition."
Despite their third game being cancelled for similar weather reasons, the two wins they earned propelled them to top spot in their bracket.
G2007 Elite Blue's opponents were Charlotte Development Academy, Arkansas Comets FC and Pinecrest Premier. “The RI Surf 07 Girls always look forward to opening their competitive season at the DPL Winter Showcase," Said Coach Patrick McCue, "This year we headed down to Tampa, FL without some key players due to injuries, illnesses and family commitments; however, the girls that were there and healthy, made the most of it, as we finished 2-1 on the weekend. Given the fact that we have only been training 6 weeks due to High School, I’m very happy where we are and we know exactly what we need to work on. Additionally the girls are excited to have our Gatorade Player of the Year and USC All-American, Emma Kucal (ACL) back and contributing (5 goals, 1 assist). We are definitely in a great spot as we approach the games that matter this spring.”
Following two wins in their opening two games, they suffered defeat in their third and finished second in their bracket.
G05/06 Elite matched up against Southern Soccer Academy, Florida Rush and Colorado United in their bracket play. Coach Jim McGirr had this to say about his other team playing in the competition, "Our oldest age group was extremely unlucky not to represent themselves better, losing their first 2 matches while performing at a high level. After starting the weekend strong & healthy, we were struck with injuries and illness, leaving us with only 11 players for our final match and 1 of our goalkeepers playing in the field. This was the moment that our true character was tested and the girls passed with flying colors, winning the match 1-0 and a bond that will hopefully galvanize them for the upcoming spring season!"
Following two defeats to open the competition, they managed to dig deep and win their final game 1-0 despite only having eleven fit players and a goalkeeper playing in the field.
G2012/G2013 SCRIMMAGE SERIES SHOWDOWN
Our G2012 Elite and G2013 Blue teams made the trip down South as well to compete in DME Academy's "Scrimmage Showdown Series". The 2012s played West Florida Flames, DME Academy and Mutiny, with the first two games being played in an 11v11 format. The 2013s faced a schedule that included Mutiny's 2012 team, Chargers, West Florida Flames and DME Academy's B2013 group.
Girls Director Aleksej Skundric had this to say about the experience, "Clubs out of the Northeast face certain climate challenges other parts of the country don't. Over the past couple of years we have continued to add and revolutionize our winter programming in order to provide our players the best developmental opportunities yearwide. As such getting full size games against good opposition at this point in the season is a huge plus. This year we were able to provide our GU11 Blue and GU12 Elite teams an opportunity to travel down to Florida and play some quality teams in the 9v9 and 11v11 format. Our G2013 Blue got four quality games against a G2012 team, B2013 team, and two quality G2013 teams. Our G2012 Elite team got two 11v11 games against two of Florida's top U12 teams and a 9v9 game as well. Unfortunately their fourth game was canceled due to the weather. Getting this weekend of games in will provide a huge boost to both teams, in a period of the season difficult to utilize. In addition to the soccer side of things these travel events always provide so much to the girls in terms of team bonding. Both groups are that much closer having spent the weekend together. I look forward to seeing all the results of our winter season grind in the Spring!"
ORLANDO, FLORIDA: From across the country, 142 boys teams (U14-U19) descended upon the famous ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex with hopes of booking their tickets to National League P.R.O., the next stage of national events set to take place in February or May, 2024.
Four exciting days of action kicked off on December 1st, with Rhode Island Surf being represented by its B2009 and B2008 Elite teams coached by Johan Forslof and Scott Graham, respectively.
"Playing at the USYS National Playoffs was another excellent opportunity for our players, coaches, and teams as a whole to test themselves against many of the top teams from across the country," said Graham. "We always seek to challenge our players and give them the experience of playing the game at a high level. It's a privilege to play at these top facilities and compete for a chance to progress to National League P.R.O. next year and ultimately aim to reach Nationals next summer."
In what was their first major outing at this level, B2009 Elite were faced with tough opposition from Tennessee, Oregon and Michigan. The weekend proved to be an excellent learning experience that would become apparent through the improvement they showed over the three-game stretch. After dropping the first two fixtures, there was still a chance for them to progress on the final day of the competition. Despite holding an early 2-0 advantage, they ultimately drew against a talented Michigan Futbol Academy side. With many positives to take away from the trip down South, they will return to USYS National League New England Conference play in the Spring.
After narrowly missing out on qualification to Nationals last season by-way of goal differential, B2008 Elite was seeking redemption on their travels to the Sunshine State. With two wins from their opening two games over Texas State Champions Aspire FC and President's Cup National Champions Apple Valley SC, the group was certainly delivering on that promise. On their final day of action, they suffered a 1-0 defeat to Kansas Rush, who currently sit at #20 in the national rankings. Despite the difficult result in their penultimate fixture, they will move on to play at the National League P.R.O. event that takes place in Oceanside, California in early May.
Those who qualified from this event will compete against the Elite 64 qualifiers in a singular competition to determine the National League's representatives at the National Championships that again take place in Orlando, Florida beginning on July 23rd, 2024.