Friday, October 23, 2009

Youth: RSL Under-16s on verge of Premier League title

TAMPA – For RSL Florida boys under-16 coach Steve Wolf, his first experience with the Region III Premier League has been a thoroughly enjoyable one.

“It’s very exciting,” Wolf said on Thursday evening at RSL’s training fields. “This is the first season I’ve been in this league and coached in this league, and the competition is great. It’s really first class, I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Part of that enjoyment has come from the success his side has found. The squad enters the final weekend of the season undefeated and on top of the league with two games to play. The Florida State Cup runners-up for the last three seasons, victory would be a major accomplishment for the side, and earn it an automatic berth to next year’s Southern Regional tournament in Baton Rouge, La.

According to Wolf, a big key to the side’s success this season has been its resiliance. In three of the seven games RSL has played so far, they have rallied to win after facing deficits. That has filled Wolf, who began coaching the side in July, with an immense sense of pride.

“We’ve had three games where we were behind by a goal and we came back and won those matches, so from that aspect I’m very happy with the boys,” Wolf said. “Just knowing that we can be in that situation where we’re down, but we still have come back and won matches. I think that’s something to be very proud of.”

The Region III Premier League is made up of teams in the Southern region that finished as either the champion or runner-up of the State Cup tournament earlier this year, giving every team high-level competition on a regular basis. After finishing sixth out of ten teams as an under-15 side with a 3-3-3 record last season, RSL captain Zach Higgins said the team has shown greater maturity this season, taking every challenge it has faced in stride.

Pair that with the side’s determination to outwork its opponents in every contest, and the 6-0-1 record it currently holds is easy to explain.

“This experience has definitely been good,” Higgins said. “Considering the fact that we were only at .500 last year, this is a big improvement for us. I just think we’ve been working a lot harder to get better, working a lot harder in the games to outwork the other team. That’s what it’s all about.”

With games remaining against CESA Premier and Columbia United from South Carolina, both of whom sit below .500 currently, RSL doesn’t want to relinquish the hold it has on a potential title.
“It does you no good to play well for the first seven games and then mess up all your hard work in the final two games,” Higgins said. “It definitely would mean a lot to win the league and get a secured spot in regionals.”
That reward would also mean a lot to Wolf.
“I think our approach has been excellent,” Wolf said. “The table so far reflects on our performances, so (we’ve) just to go out and play the way we’ve been playing, to prepare the way we’ve been preparing, and to relax.
“I think the main thing is to relax and play.”

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