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Quest for a three-peat too high a hill to climb for boys’ PUMA vElite defending champs

07/14/2012, 6:53pm CDT
By Madeline Greene

For the past two years, Albion SC has dominated the PUMA vElite tournament at Schwan’s USA CUP, presented by PUMA. With two championships resulting in two trips to Europe by previous Albion teams, this year’s U16 crop had all eyes on them as they returned to the USA CUP to defend their championship title.

An Albion defender guards the post during Friday's action

“Coming back in to defend the title is definitely an honor for us,” said Albion coach, Elliot Savitz. “The club has shown really well the last few years. We came out this year trying to win it and represent the club properly.”

The San Diego based club has been a constant competitor at the tournament in recent years. Their mission is to develop successful, well-rounded individuals who exhibit good sportsmanship, ethical and moral behavior and their demeanor on and off the field has proved that their mission has been engraved in their players.

While they team was prepared and determined to come away from the tournament with the coveted championship, they also felt the pressure of being a well known team in this bracket of the tournament.

“Coming back to a place where our team has won the past two years is difficult because in soccer anything can happen,” said Korey McKeown. “Just one goal or one mistake can end your whole tournament and it is hard to defend that with all the pressure. Everyone is watching you, college scouts are coming. All eyes are on you.”

Another player, Ben Mitchell, also mentioned the pressure the team was under when they arrived to play at USA CUP.

“At first I felt like there was a little bit of pressure just knowing that two years in a row our team has come and won,” said Mitchell. “But then once I got here I tried to forget out it and just play our game. I wasn’t worrying about the hype.”

Albion players leaving the field after their last game Saturday

Albion posted wins over CSA Gold Fury from Nebraska and St. Croix Academy from Minnesota, but lost twice as well, to Sacramento United and La Roca Premier from Utah. The six points earned was not enough to push Albion through to the semifinals on Sunday morning. But instead of looking at their failed three-peat through a dark lens, Savitz took a more analytical perspective.

“A few plays didn’t go our way this year,” said Savitz. “We ended up losing a close match which knocked us out, but the boys came in very focused and we had specific training sessions just to prepare for this tournament and it was very competitive. All the teams we played were very strong.”

While disappointed, McKeown explained that soccer is a situational sport and you are never sure what is going to come of a game.

“Soccer isn’t a sport where it all depends on your skill. It depends on luck, the day, the conditions. Whatever happens, happens. “

Although their experience is not necessarily what they had hoped for, Albion is still enjoying their time at USA CUP and looking forward to coming to the tournament in the future.

“The USA CUP is really cool,” Mitchell said. “A huge tournament and there is always something to do at the fields. It is fun to be able to travel with your team and have experiences that you don’t usually get when you go to local or regional tournaments. I think the way the tournament is put on is incredible. The fields are perfect, the officiating is good; there is all this cool stuff to do.”

“The facilities have been excellent, the boys have been happily surprised that they’ve received multiple gifts, tested cleats and they’ve had a great time,” said Savitz. “This has been a great experience for both the boys and myself. Our club has been growing each year and we are hoping to continue to build and come to tournaments like this one.” 

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Tag(s): July 14, 2012