For those who took part, it had to be one of the toughest days of soccer that they ever played.
Last summer, Mount Airy High School soccer coaches Will and Holden Hurley made their annual trip to the Powerade State Games of North Carolina as coaches of the Midwest Region boys’ soccer team. The Hurleys took a long a 20-man roster that included two of their players. After losing to the hometown team first thing Saturday morning, the team battled through one more match that day, then came back on Sunday and won a do-or-die final match of pool play to reach the medal round.
They rematched with the same Raleigh-area team that had beaten them the day before, this time with the bronze medal on the line. After battling through double overtime, the match ended in a 2-all draw, and Hurley let his players choose who would take the shots in a shootout for the bronze. They chose well, and after day that featured 140 minutes of soccer in 95-degree heat, the Midwest came home with a medal.
And they’ll do it all again starting tomorrow, although hopefully, with less heat and a shinier medal at the end of two days’ work.
Both of the Hurleys are back for another year of coaching the Midwest team, where they will be joined by John Blake of Ledford and Timothy Buck of Rockingham County. The Granite Bears are represented by two of Hurley’s players, brothers Austin and Jackson Tumbarello. Austin played on the team last year, and scored a goal in the team’s opening match on Sunday, which the Midwest had to win in order to play for a medal. Jackson, who was a freshman for MAHS last fall, is on his first State Games squad.
As head coach, Will Hurley often stocks his State Games roster with players whose talents he’s familiar with, and the Northwest 1A Conference is also represented by four players from Bishop McGuinness — Alan Linares, Brandon Linares, Nathan Joseph and David Molen. Jeremy Shore and Chase Melton of Forbush High School also made the team. The rest of the team is made up of players from the Piedmont Triad and regions just to its east, including four players from Greensboro Page and two homeschooled players.
The team was chosen in open tryouts last month, with all four coaches involved in the selection process.
As they did a year ago, the Midwest will open against the Central team in Saturday’s opening round. However, instead of having to make a 150-mile ride and then face Central in its own backyard, this showdown will be on neutral ground at the UNC-Greensboro Soccer Stadium, about equidistant between the two areas. At 2:15 p.m., they will face the West Regional team on UNCG’s north practice field.
Sunday’s action will start at 9 a.m. with a match between the Midwest and the Southeast team, made up of players from the area around Clinton and Jacksonville. The top four teams advance to the medal round, with the gold medal game at the Soccer Stadium and the bronze medal game at the practice field, both at 2:30 in the afternoon.
The girls’ State Games tournament will be contested at the same time as the boys, with four teams playing a round-robin to decide the medal-winners. Medals for the girls will be presented following Sunday’s last matches at 12:30.
No one from the area is represented on any of the girls’ teams. Local players would have been part of the West Region, and one player from Stokes County played last year, but all of the local players playing summer ball opted for other competitions this season. Numerous other local players have competed in the baseball, softball and swimming State Games meets already this month.