Pack crowned summer league champsPublished 1:24pm Thursday, July 17, 2014
GREENVILLE — The high school summer league at J.H. Rose High School was intended to provide players with a competitive, fast-paced game scenario, while also giving coaches a look at their potential varsity squads for the fall season. But for head coach Jim Kozuch and the Washington soccer team, it seemed like target practice.
“We really didn’t know what to expect coming in,” Kozuch said. “There were some really good teams in there, so the competition was good. Some of our guys that player J.V. last year really stepped up. It was nice to be able to get a look at them and see if they’re going to be ready to play with the big boys this year.”
Washington effortlessly locked up the summer league title Wednesday evening with a 7-0 victory over South Central’s “A” team, finishing with a 6-0 record and a plus-24 goal differential in their six games.
South Central A entered as the No. 2 team in the league with a 3-1-1 record and a plus-five point differential. An offense-centered squad, the Falcons have relied on their dynamic frontal attack to outscore opponents. With a full backfield in place, the Pam Pack denied early scoring opportunities and limited the Falcons to just a few shots in the second half.
Junior Kyle Hodges, who has developed into one of Kozuch’s go-to options up front, found Sergio Cabrera on a cross in the third minute for the first goal of the game. It was a methodical first strike, but South Central maintained the pressure, forcing goalie Will Tate make a handful of diving saves.
Cabrera continued to get ahead of the Falcons defenders and rack up shots on goal. Eventually, he located sophomore Eric Ruiz on a cross at the top of the box. With his back to the net, Ruiz turned and fired a shot to the left to the keeper and into the back of the net.
South Central’s defense fizzled as the first half progressed, as the Falcons’ goalie made a collection of timely saves, even cutting off several one-on-one breakaway opportunities.
But the agile goalkeeper could not stop three more goals from coming in the first half: Hodges on a breakaway, senior Lupe Barrera on a through ball and junior Arturo Leal by dribbling through two defenders.
At the half, Tate was switched out for midfielder Ben McKeithan and Barrera came back on defense. Tate, a keeper by trade, found it difficult to create space up front. However, with five minutes left, the Pam Pack goalie received a cross from Ruiz in the box and deposited the sixth goal of the game. A minute later off a throw in, Tate tapped another one past the goalie.
Kozuch sees his team’s success as a sign of things to come this fall.
“The league wasn’t built so much on winning, but winning is contagious,” Kozuch said. “If you get those wins in the summer, you come on out and you set the bar high. We set the standard of winning, so we want to come out in the fall and continue our success.
“We should be a force to be reckoned with. We should be able to go out and play with everyone who is on our schedule and have a chance to win every game. It should give us the confidence to go on out there and put up a fight against anyone.”
Washington will face J.H. Rose today at 6 p.m.