Fifteen SDA teams head to Cortland this weekend to compete in the New York State West National Championship Series.
Four of the teams (06 Boys, 02 Girls, 01 Boys and 00 Girls) are defending State Cup champions.
“It’s remarkable to have a team in all those age groups,” says Michael Paolini, director of soccer at SDA. “It says a lot about our players and our coaches and how well-prepared they are. Most of them had to go and win a play-down game, and two of our teams had to win two play-down games to get to State Cup.”
SDA teams this season played in the EDP League, which meant traveling
for games in the fall and spring. “We’re getting really good competition
in those league games,” Paolini explains, “so we’re really well-prepared
for the tough games we face in State Cup.”
Director of coaching Steve Axtell says SDA coaches work from a curriculum
designed for general player development. But in the weeks leading up to
State Cup, they generally spend more time working on game situations,
set pieces and individual players’ roles.
Coaches want to make sure their teams are prepared to win all three games—and by good margins. The round robin format for for the Final Four teams means tiebreakers may be required to determine which team will advance to Regionals. So, a goal difference, or the least goals allowed could wind up being important.
“The focus is to win the event,” Axtell says.
Coaches also have to realize the series has rules limiting to seven the maximum number of player substitutions in each half, for the older teams. New this year, 04 teams (comprised of players under age 15) are included among the teams that must follow the substitution rule.
This year, three “wild cards” are available for the 00 Boys, 05 Boys and 06 Boys. That means in those divisions, the second-place teams from State Cup may be invited to Regionals.
Coach Tommy Tanner encourages SDA players to turn out to watch other SDA teams play this weekend. (Schedule at bottom of story.) He says many SDA teams are favored champions. Three games that Tanner predicts will be particularly pivotal:
01 Girls v BC United at 10 a.m. Sunday at SUNY Cortland C4
04 Boys v Invictus at noon Saturday at Homer High School
07 Boys v Empire Rochester at 8 a.m. Sunday at SUNY Cortland C8
Most SDA players live close enough to Cortland to
commute to the games, while competitors from
teams beyond Syracuse stay in nearby hotels.
Does that give SDA an advantage, or disadvantage?
“Good question,” Tanner acknowledges.
Some players prefer to sleep in their own beds and
prepare their own food. Others appreciate fewer
distractions at a hotel and don’t mind eating out.
Some coaches and players like for the team to be
together for important events because staying
at the same hotel facilitates bonding and makes
group warm-ups easier.
Axtell points out that by this time of year, most SDA players have bonded with teammates through travel to multiple tournaments. He also points out that getting restful sleep and good nutrition is easier to do at home, “and especially as they get older, into high school, nutrition and sleep become more important.”
Defending champions: '02 Girls and '00 Girls
Defending champions: '01 Boys
Defending champions: '06 Boys
Some SDA teams have early morning games in Cortland, which means extra early departure times from Syracuse. So, whether staying at home is an advantage or disadvantage is a bit of a tradeoff.
Regardless, State Cup weekend promises tough competition.
“We’ve been blessed to have teams go to Regionals and Nationals a few times. That’s our goal,” Paolini says. “We’re not just here to win a state championship. We want to get to the National Championship.”