RALEIGH — It took the Midwest Region team a while to get going on the opening day of the Men’s Soccer tournament at the Powerade State Games of North Carolina, but the team, which features three coaches and four players from local high school teams, enters Sunday’s final round with a chance to earn a medal.
The Midwest team, which is coached by Mount Airy head soccer coach Will Hurley, with the Granite Bears’ Holden Hurley and Starmount’s Seth Daves as two of his four assistants, opened the showcase with a 2-0 loss to the Central team in the opening game on Saturday morning. After a break of about three and a half hours, the team took the field for a second time, needing a victory to stay in contention for a medal, and defeated the West 2-1 to end day one of the tournament with a 1-1 record.
The tournament is organized with two pools of three teams each. Each team plays the other three teams from the other pool, and the teams with the best record in each pool play for the gold medal. The runners-up play for the bronze.
The team stands a strong chance of playing for some medal if it wins its last match of pool play at 9:45 this morning against the Northeast team, but could still be frozen out of the medal round even if it wins. Either the gold medal or the bronze medal game would be a possibility, depending on the results of the other two Sunday morning matches. They will begin their match already knowing what their chances are.
“I feel like we will be playing for a medal if we win that match,” said Coach Hurley. “If we come out and play like we did in that second match today, I think we can win it.”
The Midwest hurt itself with a couple of mistakes in its opener, which doomed the team to an opening-round setback.
“All of these teams are so evenly matched,” Hurley said. “It’s like looking at a mirror image of yourself. Everyone’s good.”
Central took a 1-0 lead on a goal that Hurley described as a “trickler” that eluded the defense. The Midwest tried to get an equalizer and had a few strong opportunities to score, but their chances of salvaging a point from the match ended when one of the defenders was whistled for a foul in the goal box and Central converted the penalty kick for a 2-0 advantage, which is how the match ended.
The Midwest is competing against the South and Southeast teams in its pool, and losing the match meant that they earned no points from their first match. The tournament is being played under international scoring rules, meaning that a victory is worth three points in the standings and a draw earns one. The South played in the next match and drew 2-2 with the West, earning one point. The Southeast then downed the Northeast 2-0 and earned three.
After lunch on Saturday, the Midwest took the field for the second time and played the West. Ben Baker of Ledford scored twice to lead the team to a 2-1 victory and complete the day’s action with three points.
“It just took us a while to find ourselves as a team,” said Hurley. “We were much more team-oriented in the second game. We passed the ball a lot better.”
Two more matches were played on Saturday. At the end of the day, the South and Southeast teams both had four points, each with a win and a draw. Both South and Southeast will play matches at 8 a.m. today, each on a different field. If both teams win, each will have seven points and it would be impossible for Hurley’s team to reach the medal round. However, if either team loses or draws, the Midwest team clinches a spot in the medal round with a victory. They could make it with a draw, although this would require an outright loss by one of the other two teams and a tiebreaker advantage for the Midwest.
Hurley was able to hand out kudos to both of his own players, sophomore forward Austin Tumbarello and senior midfielder Malcolm Malone. He said that Malone, one of the most experienced players on the roster, played very hard in trying to keep the Midwest in their opening game defeat, and that both were solid in the Saturday matches.
“Malcolm is carrying himself well, and Austin did too,” said Hurley.
Solomon Maya of Starmount and Saul Zamora of Forbush are the other two players from the area who are part of the squad.
Following the end of pool play this morning. the top two teams in each pool will play for the medals at 1:15 p.m. The gold-medal match will be held at Durham Bulls Stadium Field, and the bronze-medal match will be played simultaneously at Travers Lasik Field. Both fields are part of the WRAL Soccer Park complex in north Raleigh.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.