The Midwest team for the boys’ soccer tournament at the 2017 Powerade State Games of North Carolina is quite the family affair.
Mount Airy High School is represented on the 20-man all-star team by two families. Coaches Will and Holden Hurley have been fixtures at the State Games for a number of years, with the pair reprising their roles as head coach and assistant coach for the Granite Bears. But this year, brothers Austin and Jackson Tumbarello are both on the roster as well.
Jackson, a rising sophomore, makes his State Games debut this season, while his older brother Austin makes his second appearance on the Midwest squad as a rising junior. The two were most recently seen at the 1A state track and field championships in Greensboro, where both Tumbarello brothers played key roles in the Bears claiming their second straight state championship as a team. The pair also reached the third round of the state playoffs in boys’ soccer and the state quarterfinals in wrestling.
The State Games soccer tournament will take place not too far from the venue of the track state championship, which was on at Aggie Stadium in Greensboro. The State Games will be contested at UNC-Greensboro’s soccer facilities, just three and a half miles away.
A year ago, Austin Tumbarello was one of the youngest players on the Midwest team as it rallied from a poor beginning to claim the bronze medal in dramatic fashion on the second day of the two-day event. The Midwest team, representing various schools from the Piedmont Triad, had to travel across the state and play an early-morning game against the Central squad, representing Raleigh area schools — in what amounted to a road match at the WRAL Soccer Park in Raleigh.
Coach Hurley felt his team had come out flat for that match, and lost 2-0 in a match that began at 8 a.m. Later that day, they defeated the West team 2-1 to keep their medal hopes alive.
The next day, it was do-or-die for the Midwest as they faced the Northeast team in its third match. Austin Tumbarello came off the bench about 15 minutes in, and scored to give his team a 1-0 lead. They ended up winning the match 3-1, a decisive enough victory that they had a shot at the gold medal match if one of the top two teams in their pool had lost, but that didn’t happen. However, they did earn a spot in the bronze medal match, where they drew a rematch with the same Central team that had beaten them the day before.
Playing in 95-degree heat, the teams battled to a 2-2 draw through regulation and two five-minute overtime periods. This meant the bronze would be decided in a shootout. Hurley let his players choose who would take the penalty kicks, and the Midwest won the shootout and claimed the medals.
In their attempt to do even better this time around, the Hurleys and the Tumbarellos will be joined by several familiar faces. Four members of the Bishop McGuinness soccer team were selected to the roster, along with two Forbush Falcons. Also back in uniform for the team are brothers Ben and Mark Rowan, both homeschooled players who played key roles on the team a year ago.
Ledford High School is represented by two players and assistant coach John Blake, while Rockingham County brought assistant coach Timothy Buck and his son Adam, one of the 20 players on the roster.
The team will once again be in the very first match of the tournament, but the trip isn’t nearly as far this time around. At 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 24, the Midwest team will face the Central squad in a rematch of last year’s bronze-medal match on the pitch at the UNCG Soccer Stadium. At 2:15, they will take on the West at the nearby north practice field.
Pool play winds down on Sunday at 9 a.m. with the Midwest back on the main field, playing the Southeast. If they complete pool play as one of the top four teams, the medal-round games will be contested at 2:30. The gold-medal match is on the main field, with the third- and fourth-place teams on the practice field playing for the bronze.
The pool format is the same as a year ago, with each team playing the three teams in the other pool. Advancement is determined using the international point system, with three points for a win and one for a draw. The four teams with the most points at the end of pool play play for the medals.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.