I have to take a moment to offer a shout out to the Sandhurst Pacers and Sandhurst SC. I first saw the boys in the second half of their opening match against KC Blaze, a 2-0 win that was their first as a team in State Cup. Thanks to the help of a parent who was quietly watching, and cheering, her son and his teammates I knew that was the case and took a few minutes to chat with a couple of the players post-game. You can hear that interview below.
The next chance I had to see them came in the U16 semifinal, an opportunity they reached by grabbing the wild card spot by getting their second win of the tournament, against FCKC Academy, in their final group game. It came against Sporting JB Marine Mann, a team playing for the fourth straight year in the semifinal, earning titles as 13’s and 14’s, now 16’s with the calendar year change. In other words, a significant challenge.
PHOTO GALLERY – Sporting JB Marine Mann v Sandhurst
Here’s where I get excited. You’ve reached the semifinals, you’re facing a perennial favorite, you haven’t reached the same level that your opponent is playing at. Yet. How do you approach the game?
Sandhurst Pacers did what everybody says you should do but rarely, if ever, actually do. They played their game. They didn’t pack 8, 9 or 10 boys on defense and hope for a counter. They went out, worked hard and played their game. That game is predicated on keeping the ball on the ground, short passing and moving off the ball. That meant even under pressure they were looking for a teammate and the pass. It meant moving together on offense and defense, staying close and supporting their teammates.
It also meant they lost 5-1 to a superior team. Sporting opened a 3 goal lead from Riley Dubbs, Braden Johnson and Aaron Bouchard but Andrew Fassler got one back late on a free kick, his header floating under the crossbar. A goal in the first min. of the 2nd half by Drew Schenk extended the lead to 4-1 with Johnson getting a second for the final margin.
As Pat Mann, Head Coach for Sporting noted post-game, he has been very impressed with the team and their approach. A SLYSA League match ended 7-0 earlier in the year yet the Sandhurst boys had come out better prepared and unafraid of the challenge. He too is a fan.
The Pacers were not out-worked, their sportsmanship included collecting balls for their opponent when they were closest (not walking away like we see way too often) and they were justifiably proud of what they had achieved by reaching the game and the results of their season.
Coach Garey Gyles offered minimal instruction from the sidelines during the match, relying on the boys to apply the lessons he taught them on their own. Learning the game from the game.
The Sandhurst Pacers have a new fan. It’s one team and one set of boys but it played out on a large and important stage and I suspect that it won’t be the last time we get to see them practice what everyone preaches. Well done Pacers!
INTERVIEW with Sandhurst Pacers players Andrew Fassler and Reid Haegele following their first ever State Cup win, 2-0 over FCKC Academy on Saturday.
From the website – SSC will promote and advocate for the continued growth of soccer in South County St. Louis, Fenton City, and their surrounding areas and try to achieve its goals by working closely with families, schools, churches, and communities to create a productive and friendly environment that is conducive to healthy living, building lasting friendships, and exercising ethical and moral conduct.