Category Archives: Fusion

2009 ASA Cup Summary: Proving our fortitude and demonstrating our nerve

Much of this story, of course, began last Fall.

Christy, Haley Anne, and Hannah E. were coming off an undefeated U12 season at ASA. Christy and Haley Anne were invited to play-up for the struggling U14 Blast in the ASA Cup. This gave Christy and Haley Anne an opportunity to rejoin Shockers alum AC with whom they had won the U12 Extreme Cup the prior Spring. Coach Chris and I Observed that patch-work team play together (three draws), and got to know some of the parents. And, we saw great promise.

Drama (and, that is certainly an understatement) was afoot as Chris and I decided to break from ASA, and pull the core of our U12 team up early into U14. We merged with that Blast squad, regrouped with Mars and Hannah D., and built a team around a focused goal of going to the Spring State Cup.

That U14 team exceeded all expectations, and the story is chronicled on this team blogsite at.

I feel the stage was set, in epic fashion, as we returned to ASA this past weekend for the ASA Cup.

With a pair of key defenders injured (Claire and Loren) and others expected to be on holiday, we knew our U16 Shockers were going to be low on reserves. I had not really thought about it (and, truthfully so) until we arrived at The Polo Grounds (with my heart, admittedly, in my throat), but Christy and Haley Anne (with their hearty and ferocious U14 teammate Rachel) were once again joining an older squad to lend support. The vital difference this year was a more than reasonable expectation that we could win a Cup (and, coach Brian might realize a promise he made to the Claire and Grace the prior year).

Match One Saturday U16 Shockers vs. ASA Xplosion

In the very first match Saturday, under perfect condition to include cobalt blue skies, we faced ASA Xplosion. This is a hand-picked team of select players, many of whom have played together for over four years, dropped into the Rec divisions with the specific mission to win a State Cup in the coming Spring. The team is trained more often than not by Jeff Salas, one of the ASA directors who has a daughter on the squad. They were undefeated through the Fall season. We are told they averaged six goals per match against all opponents, and often won by shut-out, with only four goals scored against them in the regular season.

That was precisely the test I wanted, as we are really only now peaking, coming into our own, and preparing for Athens.

The Xplosion defense lived up to their training. Our vaunted Shockers attack had much fewer shots on goal than usual. But, we pressed hard, passed well, with very good communication, and saw the ball often on their end of the pitch. At roughly the 20th minute in the first half, Christy found herself facing a rebounded ball, spinning off a cross from Shelby, and placed it neatly into the back of the Xplosion net. I can look back on that match now and understand that we should have then changed our lineup to keep Xplosion on their heels. However, our intensity never let up. Both sides fought hard and passed well. We’ll offer no excuses. But, our defense that day was just getting accustomed to the lineup and the addition of Haley Anne. We had some miscommunication, and the very experienced Xplosion were able to convert on two goals. The final score was 2 to 1 in favor of Xplosion, but our Shockers were clearly under their skin.

And, we had a terrific opportunity on our hands (if not our boots).

I took the position that we had a dramatic opportunity to demonstrate only great character, come off this tough loss, and fight our way into the finals to face the Xplosion for a rematch.

Match Two Saturday U16 Shockers vs. AFU Cheetahs

That thinking and objective took us to our second match of the day and against league rivals AFU Cheetahs. And, of course, there would be a brilliant twist!

We had already beaten Cheetahs 3 to 2 earlier in the season; and, ironically, in the driving rain. Our 2nd regular season match had been rained out and needed to be rescheduled. We needed the points to overtake Cheetahs sister team Angels for the league championship. I had suggested to the Cheetah coach that we use the tournament match to decide the league tally. So, our second match of the tournament had both a Cup and a League championship on the line (I did not mention this to our Shockers even though several parents knew).

Cheetahs had just beaten the ASA Rockets 1 to 0 earlier in the day, and were well positioned to advance. All they had to do was get past us for the finals. To put matters into perspective, Cheetahs had played in the finals at Kohls Cup the prior weekend.

I’ll submit to you, and right now, that every Shocker on the pitch brought both their heart and their best boots to that match. The Cheetahs midfield and defense are stubborn and skilled. The ball failed to bounce in any one teams favor. Both sides broke the others fast breaks and used the sidelines like professionals found at the World Cup level. Lauren came up with several key saves (including a heart-stopping melee right in front of our net). Our defense were pulling themselves together under the leadership of Megan while Lindsay was playing as though possessed. Haley Anne was getting used to the speed-of-play at the U16 level and offered up several timely transition kicks. Although I think it might have been Grace that frustrated the Cheetahs Forwards the most, I’ll pick Kelsie’s Stopper play as the most dominating. As we transitioned the ball, Michelle demonstrated some very savvy passing. However, it was the gritty play of U14 reserve Rachel and always reliable KC that kept the ball moving in the right direction. Those two combined with the exceptional fighting and dribbling skills of Grayce and Shelby literally carried the day. In the first half Shelby found a brilliant cross from the right and laid the ball cleanly past the Cheetah Keeper. And, it was KC’s opportunistic BIG SHOT and score (because she FINALLY played up to the box) from thirty meters out that kept the momentum in our favor. It should be noted that the last five minutes of that match were likely the longest of my coaching (or playing). That score was 2 to 1 in favor of Shockers giving us the advantage over Cheetahs in the standings and one match away from the finals. It also put us five points over AFU Angels for the league championship – meaning that both our Shockers teams ended the regular season as respective league champions with a combined record of 17-1-2 (more about that later in a separate post).

Afterwards, walking off the pitch with Grace Guthrie, I had the opportunity to look her in the eye, and remind her that she always seems to step up and bring her best play when we need her most.

Match Three Sunday U16 Shockers vs. ASA Rockets

Sunday morning broke both cold and wet. And, our Shockers appeared to hardly notice. They showed up at ASA’s Polo Grounds all grins, and knowing what they had to do with the tournament “satisfied” as opposed to “pleased”.

The Rockets coach approached me shortly before kick-off with a chuckle. He ruefully advised me that we had clearly rattled their sister team Xplosion. The players had been texting and Facebooking beseeching Rockets to take “those Shockers” out of the final. “We knew you guys were good but wow. No one is happy here”.

The Rockets had already fallen to Xplosion 5 to 0 and Cheetahs 1 to 0. So, they had an opportunity to play the spoliers and support a Club sister team. And, many of those Rockets are good fighters. However, with Xplosion and Cheetah players haplessly watching more of our match from their sidelines than their own our Shockers may have played one of the most balanced and aggressive efforts I’ve ever seem them muster. We certainly played our typical “Shocker Ball” keeping the play on the Rockets side of the pitch over 85% of the match. Our passing was text book, the confidence supreme. Our scoring onslaught started in the first minute with Grayce’s sliding out of the back, but not before cutting the angle and hammering a jaw-dropping shot across the box into the far corner of the Rocket net. The Rocket coach summed it up nicely with “wow”. And, we could hear Salas behind us (coaching the Xplosion) adding a: “you have to watch her”! Shelby’s selfless passing was relentless. By the end of the match, we had scored eight goals (although the refs had it tallied officially at nine). Grayce had a hat-trick, and over the course of the match saw Michelle, Shelby, KC and Christy add to the scoring tally. The final official score was 9 to 1 and the U16 Shockers were in the finals and ready to face Xplosion for the Cup.

This promised to be a barn-burner. Yes it did!

Tournament Finals Sunday U16 Shockers vs. ASA Xplosion

I was, admittedly, in high spirits as I approached the Polo Grounds fields just after 2:10. Then I got the news… To keep this part of the story short, the “tournament director” had made the arbitrary decision to end all finals with penalty kicks as opposed to a complete match. Oddly, even though Patty and I were registered in the system, neither of us received the text messages announcing this decision.

In any event, one of my first thoughts was actually recalling that Grayce’s Dad, Regan, had reminded me two weeks earlier that Grayce was a very talented Goal Keeper. I made up my mind even before I called Coach Chris and Patty with the news. I knew that Xplosion and their coaches had watched our usual (and very successful) Keeper Lauren in action, and knew their penalty kick trained shooters had good odds. But, they had no idea about Grayce. And, I wanted Lauren focused as one of my shooters. I knew she would come through for us if we had her placed in the lineup properly. I started making calls to Shocker parents and making fast decisions. I knew who my shooters were. But, I also understood, in my heart and gut, who would get the job done under heart-pounding, adrenaline-drenched pressure. I walked up to Grayce with the news. In typical fashion, her first concern was for her teammate Lauren. I explained the strategy of surprise, and our need to for Lauren to focus on shooting, and Grayce decided that it would be fun! Coach Bill herded the team over to a far goal and started getting them warmed up. Within minutes Grayce was limbered up and all grins while inspiring mounting confidence from her VERY nervous, but determined, teammates.

As I pulled the team together I explained the shoot-out rules, sequence, and what to expect. I told them I felt they had earned this opportunity, and it was a day they would long remember – and, likely used as a comparison for many significant events in their lives. It was less about skill, and more so luck. Often a crap-shoot. Breathe, don’t make eye contact with the Keeper. No big run ups. Shoot for a corner. As Chris watched them intently near the net looking for a an opportunity for a quick correction, I took a moment to look at them as they chattered nervously amongst themselves. I’m not sure why, but I was surprised to see confidence, in me, in their eyes. This was not about me, mind you. But, they were listening to what I was saying. And, they understood – especially the part about not making eye contact with the Keeper. And, so I knew. We had a Cup waiting for us. We only needed to finish well.

Our players, parents, families and supporters, Shockers Nation all, were standing closely together when the ref called for coaches and captains. Upon the invitation form the head ref, we called numbers and it was decided that we would take the first shot. Little did the opposing goalie realize but this is what I wanted. I knew clear-eyed Shelby would stride purposefully up to that ball, toe it, step back – and, nail it home.

And, she did that very thing.

Our lead shooters were Shelby, Christy, Lauren, Kelsie and Grayce. Megan, Michelle and KC would follow. I stood slightly away from the group watching how the other Keeper positioned herself and how the Xplosion shooters approached the ball in terms of confidence and form. I tied my decision about which shooter to use and in which sequence, shooter-by-shooter, to what I saw happening as the drama played itself out. I felt I knew who might miss but also who would then compensate. We hit six out of eight and that is very good. It might be Megan’s shot I’ll remember the most vividly. Shoulders squared, I imagined that grim smile played across her face. Grayce also came up with two big saves. And, that is HUGE. The entire time she was in the net she had a smile on hr face. I kept looking at her thinking she was having the time of her life. I was also thinking about her Dad, all the Dad’s (and, of course Mom’s), in fact, and what a terrific organization we have. I felt grounded to the pitch as the ref turned to me, pointed, and sounded his whistle.

You can also read the summary online at: CummingHome.com.

That’s a tough way to win a tournament. But, we earned the right to prove our fortitude, and demonstrate our nerve.

I held back wanting to savor the moment and watch the team rush Grayce, memorizing each and every (albeit dazed) smile in those faces.

I found Haley Anne first. And, then each of my Shockers. It was our day. It was a cold one to be sure. But, it was also brilliant, none the less.

A note from Mary Guthrie:

“…Sunday’s game was equally thrilling. It seemed like it went on forever. Finally, I asked the line judge how much time was left. He chuckled and said, “A long time. 15 minutes.” He then asked if we would be in the finals. I told him we hoped to be and explained we lost the first game on Saturday to the green team. “Wow. I can’t believe anyone could beat your team.”  A few minutes later he continued, “I mean, this ASA team really isn’t that bad. They can play soccer. But, your team is just blowing them away.”  A few minutes later, he said again, “This team is really good, every one of them. They are all really good.”   I saw him again after the penalty kick championship. He congratulated me. (When I recounted the line judge story at home, Grace and Claire found this very funny. (“You didn’t even play, mom. Why did he congratulate you?”) As the Shockers were having their picture taken in the net, he turned to the official he was standing with and described the morning game. “You wouldn’t believe how good this team is…”.

[]

We’ve come so far. But, I feel like we are only, and really, just coming into our own. We have Athens in two weeks. And, if we can keep these teams together. And, I pray we do, we go to the State Cup in the Spring. And, I wonder if that’s it for me.

For any player that still wants a tournament t-shirt, we have the distributor on standby for the order. Please let me and Patty know ASAP.

I hope to see as many Shockers at practice as possible Wednesday. We have a lot of work to do as we march, Shockers Nation all, on Athens.

Coach Brian

2009 U16 League Champions

The U16 Fusion Shockers are 2009 League Champions.

Coach Brian

U16 Shockers Win 2009 ASA Cup

Our 16 Shockers are the 2009 ASA Cup Champions.

Coach Brian

Savannah

Today Shocker Nation descends on Savannah for the Shamrock Celtic Cup.

We appear to have a very good draw for our match schedule.

We need to rally to our Keeper more than ever.

Let’s show everyone we Want The Ball!

Coach Brian

Shocker Nation Notes

Shocker Nation:

Please consider showing the video below to your daughters.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6MhAwQ64c0

I know the people at GrassHopper. They tell me that much of the video was inspired by many elements of my own background. I honestly think the future of this nation will be in the hands of entrepreneurs. This is how I want my own Haley Anne to see the world. And, perhaps more importantly, relative to these “Shocker days”, it maintains our theme of establishing goals with the notion we can achieve any thing we are willing to strive for.

Meanwhile…

We have matches Tuesday against Dawsonville and Thursday against John Creek. We are doing this to maintain both an edge and “game fitness”. However, Johns Creek is going to be VERY tough.  We are also going to try to add a dimension to our game that includes kick-backs. We will need this ability at State Cup to open up the field for fast-breaks. Jessica and AC, in particular, will play a vital role in partnering with our Midfielders to make this work.

I suspect this season has taxed our families. However, I’ll not apologize because I would submit to you that these days will set the stage and prove pivotal in our Shockers development as citizens.

Patty and Andy Wojcik have secured rooms for State Cup this weekend in Columbus, Georgia. We need to be VERY methodical and make sure we coordinate getting players over to Columbus, and ready. I believe getting to Columbus is approximately a three hour drive. Lets try to be there Friday night so we can have a meeting and team dinner. If you can’t get there until Saturday morning please let me and Patty know ASAP.

Food for thought…

I focused less on highlights, and more on the experience of the District Cup on our team Blogsite. You can see that summary at: https://shockers.wordpress.com/2009/05/10/2009-district-cup/

The District Cup was a fantastic experience that now makes our Shockers seasoned.

I am sure everyone understands what a remarkable feat it was for those kids to fight their way into that Finals match. It required integrity, luck, grit (we were down in two matches, and had to fight back both times), and not losing (in our second match with Hotshots) – which is a unique element to soccer internationally. We saw some of our best passing. Hannah D also learned the hard way why coming out of the goal FAST is crucial.

I am reasonably certain our Shockers were emotionally spent by the Cup Final.

We saw this two years ago, when another young (and newly formed) Shocker team had to fight their way through rival (and more mature) ASA Crush to make the finals of the Fall Lanier Cup. We finished runner up to Dacula mostly because we were simply drained emotionally. That following Spring we balanced ourselves, and won the prestigious Extreme Cup in the Spring. So, we have a history of forming Cup quality teams and getting to the Finals.

In any event, it can be argued that our shockers played one of their better matches in the Final. But, I feel they played one of their best matches ever Sunday morning. Getting into a finals takes a tremendous toll emotionally as well as physically. So, we need to think through how we rest and feed the team this coming weekend (and, possibly more importantly, in Savannah where I think we can take a Cup).

Bottom-line: We must always prepare to wage an entire campaign, as opposed to a series of skirmishes.

Stick with me Shockers. We have our best days ahead off us.

Please be at Central Park Field #3 for tomorrow’s match against Dawsonville no later than 6:45pm.

Coach Brian

Indeed, we are Shockers

Surely, given our collective experiences, we recognize that change and growth can come unexpectedly. We believe we are faced with a bad situation. Then suddenly, sequential events create a positive, if not dramatic, result.

We saw that very scenario unfold over the past three weeks with our Shockers.

Beginning with our first match with Storm, we saw Shockers appear to lose vital focus, and they began, to my dismay, to bicker amongst themselves. We subsequently suffered a 2 to 1 loss that appeared to be the result of our own flat and uninspired play – and, an own goal.

Losing is, in many respects, a vital part of the beautiful game. However, integrity and character must separate themselves from errantly bouncing balls.

Shocker ball found itself deflated.

We rallied the following week against NSA Revolution with a decisive 5 to 0 victory.

Oddly, our players became tentative at practice, and confidence appeared to be eroding. Certainly we had two diverse cultures that had only recently converged. Some of the younger players had been with me for several years, and knew little else than a history of winning and a dramatic Cup victory. However, much of this hardy squad had suffered through uninspired leadership and two losing seasons at ASA, and might have begun to feel their current campaign was a fluke.

We then met a surging Fusion Fury that severely tested us even though we pulled away with a 4 to 1 victory, and a Christy Tovar hat-trick.

Yet, there was, again, mounting dissent.

All of this came to a horrific head last weekend when we simply fell apart against an admittedly well-coached and inspired NSA Magic. As I relayed in a prior post: Match #9: Lessons Learned, we suffered poor sportsmanship, a veritable melt-down, and a crisis of confidence that saw us shut-out 1 to 0; and a lost opportunity for the league title.

That was bad. But, what happened next was good. The real story, was the realization of a different kind of magic.

By Monday it was evident our Shockers not only did not like losing, they were deeply offended by how they suddenly saw themselves being reflected. Facebook connections and texting proliferated. Leaders and leadership were manifested in unexpected ways. Sophomoric philosophy was born and realized. Most importantly, only one side was ultimately taken – and, that was one Shocker simply united for the other.

My dramatic prose aside, the girls did not like they way they felt. They were quickly realizing it was more fun to care about and support one another. Unexpected allies reinforced the notion that sticking together and saying good things about people was satisfying. Almost as one, each of them concluded in a fury of electronic exchanges that they cared about one another (articulated only in the manner that adolescent girls can in their modern techspeak). Esprit de Corps is time-honored, and builds it’s own mystical momentum. And, we saw that energize our shockers.

Let me be all the more clear: They, as a group, saw a wrong, came to a consensus, and solved the problem with decisiveness and emerging maturity.

The best possible test of this was realized Tuesday when we met Fusion Storm for the second time. What should have (or, maybe only could have) been the match to decide league champions, the Shockers would be playing for the point of pride.

Having sorted themselves out, they were (as always) the first team on the pitch warming up. We were loose and comraderie filled the air. A small group had pulled our Keeper, Hanna D, aside and were warming her up (both with support and in fact).

I had them form a circle around me. There was no pressure. I asked them to look left then right at the players and teammates around them – and, to consider playing for those citizens and not themselves. They did giggle (they will always have that element of silly little kittens). However, that passed quickly when I reminded them that we had met one of our primary goals of the Spring – a winning season; and no one could take that away from them. The next objective was our secondary, and a stated goal, of making it to State Cup. I also explained that they were now a tournament team, going into District Cup, to take on the entire state of Georgia’s finest soccer teams – as underdogs.

That got their collective attention. There was our truest bonding agent. A renewed cause celebre and our raison d’etre.

I have already recounted the tale of our victory over Storm with Match #10: Finishing Well. As a father and coach, winning in the manner our fearsome Shockers did Tuesday night was damn satisfying.

We had overcome angst and self-doubt. We then met questionable referees, and a Storm coach that, amazingly, felt compelled to stack his team against us with guest players.

Before the kick-off I thumped my chest and bellowed:

Ladies… This fateful day – are we silly little kittens or Mighty Tigers all?

Without hesitation they responded with firm conviction:

MIGHTY TIGERS!

There were “cat calls” from the Storm bench. However, those were quickly silenced after a quick melee at midfield followed by a fast break on the Storm goal.

Perhaps the best part of the match for me was half time. The team came off the pitch united by fury; their eyes blazing. They were incensed by ref calls, and the unfortunate lack of sportsmanship by Storm. However, Chris and I recognized that as Tiger Food.

As the center ref blew her (over used) whistle to end the match, our Shockers found one another and joined their coaches with less celebration, and so much more grim satisfaction. They, each one of them, knew they had played a great match; and, it was best savoured as a team.

That is, and always will be, Shocker Ball.

See everyone tomorrow outside of Stone Mountain (or,will certainly feel you). No matter how that wily ball bounces, it’s always a beautiful game – and all the more because we are, indeed Shocker Nation.

Coach Brian

Shockers and Silverbacks

The Fusion U14 Shockers have been selected by the Atlanta Silverbacks to represent Atlanta Youth Soccer as the “walk-out” squad for the Lady Silverbacks season-opener Saturday May 16th.

Members of the Shockers will also be the official ball girls for the match.

In other news, Brian Cork has been named to the Atlanta Silverbacks Board of Directors.

Coach Brian

Match #2: Bench Strength

Updated version.

Blue skies; a gentle cooling breeze; and, late afternoon brought sister Fusion team Fury to our mighty and fearless Shockers.

From the kickoff it was Shocker ball.

Majority team Captain Mars Twitchell had Girls Leadership Club duties.  So, Stryker Christy Tovar stepped up for a hat-trick (three goals) in the first half including a brilliant corner kick from Erin Nables.

Midfield Captain KC Lowenthal shared Left-side Stryker duties with Sarah Bowers and put a solid shot in the lower left corner of the Fury net just before half-time. Sarah did a terrific job of moving the ball up the left side and passing to her teammates to set up multiple scoring opportunities.

Our legendary Defensive unit of Captain AC Anderson, Haley Anne Cork, Claire Guthrie, Jessica Curtis, Lindsay Wojcik and Emily Dwane played an almost flawless game easing their Keeper Hannah Derezinski into her first clean sheet of the regular season. The only errors were giving away four corner kicks. But, always redeemed themselves with determined clears that often resulted in Shocker fast breaks. Lindsay continues to goof off less and improve each match with tough on-on-one stands against on-coming Forwards. Emily, who has never played soccer before this season, stood her ground (albeit all bug-eyed) against two fast-breaks until teammate and BFF Haley Anne swooped in and blasted that ball back across the midline.

Observations:

Every player contributed for a decisive 4 to 0 victory. As the girls skills and confidence (in themselves as well as one another), we have demonstrated depth across Defense, Midfield and Forwards.

It was fun to note, as the first half progressed, that several of the girls observed:

We are really playing Shocker Ball.

Erin was a force of nature at Center Midfield and set up no less than seven scoring opportunities with precision passes and jaw-dropping aerial bombs with her “big boot”. She also held the Fury at the midline denying one fast break after another.

Mallory Charlton had nine shots on goal. Six of these were essentially one-on-ones where she beat Defenders on fast breaks. Once she takes her physics lessons seriously, and remembers that the ball keeps going at the same speed – even if she slows down when she approached the goal, she will no doubt net more than a few.

Hannah Erger and Sarah are probably two of my smartest players.  Just really bright kids. You can see it in how they position themselves to optimize a situation. They outthink opponents (however, sometimes, Sarah thinks too much, and slows herself down around the goal). Today, Hannah demonstrated tremendous grit making her determined stance against much larger opponents. She was put on the ground a few times but frustrated the Fury along the left side with stubborn defense and skillful close-quarters passing.

Michelle Higgins reminded coach Brian why he wants her on his teams with moments of brilliance on the right side. When Michelle remembers how quick she is, and decides to win the ball, she will be a scoring threat.

Haley Anne has it rather tough being a coaches daughter. I expect a lot of her. And, she puts a lot of pressure on herself. But, I always know that when she is around the ball we can expect it to transition efficiently. I can count on her. She has proven she can score as a Defender. Watching her gain confidence navigating the ball is a benchmark I am proud of as both a coach, and a father.

If KC had kept left more often, she would likely have had two more shots on goal. When she creeps to the right, she crowds Christy, who will always defer. We need to watch that. KC is better coming off an angle of attack, whereas Christy clearly dominates up the “pipe” (middle).

I continue to be impressed with the consistent and expanded play of both Claire and Grace Guthrie. Claire had a tough match two weeks ago. However, she bounced back today and was clearly determined to go after the ball.

At this point, if I tell Grace to:

“go after the ball”

…she will do it.

That is impressive. And, it means a lot to me, Coach Chris, and this team, that she can spark that Midfield at both Center and Right-side.

I made a big mistake today. I had promised Hannah Derezinski that if we had a solid lead going into the fourth quarter, I would put her into the Midfield. she has earned that opportunity in practice. I flat-out forgot. I won’t make that mistake again. She practices hard and is a great sport. Keeper is a tough spot. Its often thankless with most of the pressure.

In closing, we are getting ready for a heavy match schedule in the next few weeks. This includes a challenge from a Select team.

We are Shockers. We take all comers.

We want the ball.

Coach Brian

UPDATE (03-22-2009): I changed the title of this post from “Match #2: a Clean Sheet” to “Match #2: Bench Strength”.

Training with Silverbacks

Big, heart-felt thanks to Tara Minnix and Carolyn Ford of the Atlanta Silverbacks for working with our Shockers!

Group photo by our inestimable Team Manager (Main Mom) Patty Wojcik.

Fusion Shockers with Tara Minnix and Carolyn Ford

Fusion Shockers with Tara Minnix and Carolyn Ford

Carolyn Ford

Carolyn Ford


tara Minnix

Tara Minnix


2009 Lanier Cup Tournament Notes

We are certainly the Shockers.  But, this weekend, I would submit to you we are legion.

It was my view, and hopes, that we would accomplish three primary objectives this weekend at the Lanier Cup:

1.  Bond and come together as a team;

2.  Clarify strengths and weaknesses while identifying critical areas to focus our training; and,

3.  Have a terrific experience and loads of fun.

All three objectives exceeded even my own (oft optimistic) expectations.

Aside from Haley Anne’s /1 Goal (I will always be a Dad first), perhaps my favorite and immediate memory from the weekend will be of the girls gathered around the table at O’Charley’s (thanks for the excellent scouting Jim Erger [Hanna E.’s” dad]) completely relaxed; enjoying themselves with the confident knowledge they are a team that performed admirably (without exception), and will only get better each week (probably despite their coach).

Match One:  Fusion shockers vs. ASA Rockets

It was likely only me.  But, I felt the first match of the tournament with the ASA Rockets was important due to our history with ASA. Our Shockers pulled together as a new and developing squad and held their own against a more mature and established team. Rocket Coach Bob handled his team well. Our girls were, for the most part, unflinching albeit tentative (I feel this is a fair word) in the first half. Our Defense (a historical constant) was sorely tested, but never broke. Our Midfield was disorganized.  But, athleticism and desire prevailed. Oddly we had no less than seven scoring opportunities.  In each case, we always found ourselves out of position left to right, and failed to converge on the goal (“We Charge The Goal”).

But, we had created scoring opportunities. This would mark the single most critical transition form the ASA Blast legacy to the Fusion shockers future.

We made adjustments.

The second half we took the ball to their Keeper more often.  The Midfield had already begun to gel.  We kept the ball 70% on the other half of the field (that is Shocker Ball). The Defense adjusted and supported the Midfield.  Our Keeper, Hannah Derezinski managed a Clean sheet.

Although no single player stood out (other than Captain Mars Twitchell setting up some scoring opportunities) Chris Tovar and I saw verification of the potential that always seems to follow the Shockers each generation.

NOTE: Mallory Charlton began to petition for a shot at right-side Stryker.

Match Two: Fusion Shockers vs. Jackson County Wildcats

The Wildcats were nothing if not an unruly bunch.

My own primary take-away from that match was observing that our players are resilient and not nearly as “fragile” as a prior coach had warned me. The Wildcats were physical. However, the Shockers stayed on their feet, and always played with integrity. We are citizens first.

Our Midfield was having to sort out continued changes in the line-up as we tried different combinations based on skills, speed – or, both. But, again, athleticism and character showed itself – and, this began to give Chris Tovar and I some ideas. The first half rarely saw the ball make it to the Wildcat side of the field – and, certainly the Keeper. But, the key had to be transition play perhaps starting with the Defense.

Sarah Bowers, as distracted as she appeared during that match, was demonstrating field vision presence (amazing for her age) often catching open Wildcats and covering them at critical moments. KC Lownthal had flashes of brilliance with key ball control on the line.  Hannah Erger proved an invaluable sub showing grit (and emerging confidence) navigating the ball through multiple opponents with two key transitions to her Strykers. AC Anderson and Haley Anne Cork ran down and cut-off wave after gut-wrenching wave of Wildcat attacks. And, it was Claire Guthrie that held the right side (with several inspired transition of her own). Mallory Charlton showed some brilliance and toughness at Midfield with some deft ball handling. And, Jessica Curtis seemed to appear, as if my magic, more often than not where ever she was needed (often deep in the Defense), stuffing attackers and blasting the ball. And, this was pivotal because it set the stage for a crucial change in the line-up, scheme and strategy.

In the end, the difference in this match was two freak goals against us. However, that is soccer. Balls bounce funny. It’s referred to around the globe as “The Beautiful Game” because it is so unpredictable.

Saturday night Chris Tovar and I (and, Joanne) found ourselves coming to very similar conclusions regarding how the “puzzle pieces” could fit (personality, skills, etc). We had questions, and the answers were coming into focus.

What about Lindsay Wojcik, who can stop a truck, and take the ball from anyone if she can tangle with them (but, one-on-one she needs backup if the ball handler is coming on the fly)?  She is left-side strong and best in the corner. So, you make sure she understands how to work with her teammates; attack the ball; and, always have backup.

How do you use Grace Guthrie’s speed and heart when she hates Defense? NOTE: The answer is stick her in the middle as an “ranging Midfielder” and vital sub where she changes the tempo of the match by adding an extra Stopper element. We told her:

Just get the ball.  Run everyone down.

She did that very thing.

How do we teach Emily Dwane how the very game itself works (she has never played before) through a “trial-by-fire”; keeping it fun; and, not putting the team in harms way? She has no fear going after the ball. And, she is quick. She only needs confidence born of experience. Just wait and see.

What if we listened to Mallory and gave her a starting shot at right-side Stryker? KC likes to crowd left from that spot which pushed Christy Tovar back (its her personality) during the first match. But, KC fights (endlessly) for the ball, and is an unselfish passer.  We are a strong-left-oriented attack team (Mars is at the left-side Stryker position and sets up the attack).

What if we put Jessica in the center Defense with Haley Anne, and repositioned AC to the left side Defense where she can scan the field and plug-in as needed with her speed (that is, after all, her nature)?  Haley Anne and Jessica are both relentless pursuers. Now Jessica can transition the ball deep into the Midfield (but with a focus on pin-point passing) to establish the transition.

What if we put Sarah in the Midfield Stopper position where she can use her field presence and East-West (sideline to sideline) style of play?

What if we put Michelle Higgins at the right-side Midfield spot because she understands where the ball needs to be to set up a transition?  And, she is a deft passer in a crowd.

What if we have KC and Hanah E. focus on the left-side Midfield role that stops opponent attacks (most teams tend right) and requires “fighters” – but, can also be a scoring threat (KC now and eventually Hannah as she grows and matures [she will learn a lot from KC who is also an emerging leader]).

It started to come together.

On paper it looked right and made sense based on what we had seen in a scrimmage and two matches.

The stage is set.

Match Three: Fusion Shockers vs. Lanier Lady Panthers

Different as night and day.

Even though the wind had an icy bite, we were on the pitch a good 20 minutes before the Panthers began to straggle in. I moved amongst the girls as usual making adjustments, adding some off-hand incentive, chiding, and guiding. Hannah D. was a bit more subdued – but, I knew that was because she was thinking. She was gonna “bring it” this morning. She went right to her Captain and asked to be warmed up. This was a signal for the team to begin some impromptu goal shots.  They were lose and confident; laughing and comfortable with one another (certainly COLD).

I pulled Jessica and Haley Anne aside and made them practice “static kicks” for goal kick opportunities. Joanne had been pointing out that the other teams could see what we were doing and “jumping us” before the ball could reach the midline.  In just a few minutes both girls had the ball in the air

“kick through the ball at it’s lower axis – more velocity, and higher lift.”

We let Mallory know she had the right side Stryker position, and to work with Christy and Mars.

All she said was:

“Got it.”

Michelle would start at right Wing; Hannah E. left Wing (KC likes to observe the other team to get “psyched-up” [it works]). The other key changes were Sarah at Stopper, and Jessica on Defense.

We formed our circle; our hands together knowing we HAD to win – and, with a shut-out.

I asked them what we wanted. And, with nothing less than the firmest of conviction they replied:

“WE WANT THE BALL.”

And, they proved it.

From the whistle we were a different team.

Michelle was working right away with Sarah. Every Midfielder (Michelle, Hannah E., Sarah, Grace and KC) fought for EVERY ball. They were stubborn and unyielding.

We “Controlled the Midline”.

When the ball was kicked over our Midfield Jessica would blast it back and right to Mallory that evidenced an uncanny ability to “drag” the ball through traffic and tap it off to Mars or Christy.  It was like Mars, Christy and Mallory had been playing together since U7.  They anticipated one another with exquisite timing.

We “Charged the Goal”.

When the Panthers dared to cross the Midline they were stuffed. When the ball bounced against us, our Defenders rallied and constantly frustrated the Panther’s Strykers. AC ran everyone down if Haley Anne or Claire did not cut them off. Jessica stole the ball again and again like a pick-pocket. Lindsay timed her angles better and kept her backups in mind.

Emily learned the hard way to stay out of Haley Anne’s way. But, also stopped two attacks cold single handed with well timed clears.

We “Protected Our Goalie!”

Hannah “went to the ground” making several phenomenal stops – protecting that vital shut-out.

We earned a 5 to 0 victory, and the clear understanding that we had come together as a team possessed of a will to win.

No “silly little kittens” this lot. But, “Mighty Tigers” all.

Coach Brian

1/ NOTE:  Haley Anne does not like it when Daddy calls her Haley Anne. She prefers just “Haley”.

Haley Anne Scores a Goal

It was nothing less than a THING of beauty.

There is my Haley Anne, age 12, playing “up” ( a full year early) at U14 with her next generation Fusion Shockers at their first tournament together (that would be the 2009 Lanier Cup).

As you probably know, Haley Anne is a FORMIDABLE Defender. /1

It’s early in our third match of the tournament. We need five goals with any hope to reach the tournament finals.

On a corner kick, in the 8th minute, from teammate and Captain Mars Twitchell (whom ultimately two goals herself), the ball spins off the boot of another teammate Jessica Curtis (one assist). Haley comes furiously pounding up the “pipe” (middle of the pitch [soccer field]). In seemingly surreal fashion (certainly slow-motion to her coach and father) she connects her right boot with the ball in a perfect stride that sends the ball arcing beautifully towards the goal from (at least) 40 meters out.

The hapless opposing goalie can only reach for the ball in a moot effort as it passes just cleanly beneath the cross bar and settling purposefully in the back of the net.

Brian Patrick Cork (Dad first and then Coach) /2 :

HAAAAAAAA!!!!

I only know the crowd and her teammates have gone wild because I am told later this is, indeed, fact. But, it had to be drowned out by the blood rushing from my head to my heart and the exultation (and chest thumping that followed) that erupts from my hoarse throat – as I leap (certainly with the most awe-inspiring of agility) upon my friend, and assistant coach, Chris Tovar (clearly the proud father, in his own right [and, for very good cause] of Haley Anne’s multi-season teammate Christy [who also had a goal herself]) – whom could be barely less delighted than myself.

Our teams first goal of the season is scored. By MY daughter – and, a Defender at that.

Could there be greater joy this day?

Possibly only in that the Shockers (“Mighty Tigers” all) go on to seal this victory with a five to zero demonstration of grit, fire power and indomitable defense.

It should be noted that, in Haley Anne’s view (this is typical of Haley Anne), the best goal was actually that scored by teammate Mallory Charlton. Mallory had  no less than four brilliant breakaway’s – with the fourth culminating in a one-on-one with the Keeper and a clean goal in the upper left corner of the net.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

brian patrick cork

__________________________

1/ Her Fall 2008 ASA Shockers went 12 – 0 with 7 shut-outs.  Haley Anne had no less than 13 assists as a Defender and team Captain.

2/ Convinced, no less, that his teams have a tendency to win despite his efforts.

The 2009 Spring Fusion Shockers

2009 Spring Shockers

Clearly a hardy and ferocious crew.

Front Row: KC Lowenthal, Jessica Curtis, Hannah Erger, Lindsay Wojcik, Mallory Charlton, Christy Tovar

Back Row: Coach Brian Patrick Cork, Sarah Bowers, AC Anderson, Haley Cork, Claire Guthrie, Hannah Derezinski (Keeper), Grace Guthrie, Mars Twitchell (Captain), Michelle Higgins, Emily Dwane, Coach Chris Tovar

Team Mom/ Manager:

Patty Wojcik

THESE ARE MIGHTY TIGERS AND CHAMPIONS READY FOR THEIR FIRST TOURNAMENT!

Kits and Tournament Preparation

Our new “kits” (United Kingdom vernacular for uniforms and that related) have arrived.

Each player will be issued Fusion blue Adidas shorts, and Two Adidas jerseys – Fusion Blue (Home) and White (Away).

With some luck, we are hopeful Alex Rodriguez at Totally Soccer, will have our sweatshirts, custom tie-dye socks (yellow I think), and team bags (possibly our pennies) ready as well.

We will distribute the kits Tuesday evening at Central Park.

We then need the players to muster for Thursdays practice in full kit for a team photo to be displayed on the tournament website and our team page.

We have two more practices before the tournament (the weekend of February 21st and 22nd). We have had terrific turnouts for practices. However, I need to know it, if in the event, a player can’t make it in this coming week.

By the way…  This Blog site aside, all members of this team – parents and players alike, should always feel free to call or email me, for any reason.

Coach Brian

Monday’s Scrimmage

For Monday’s scrimmage at Fusion, I am looking and hoping for three things:

1.   Our wanting and fighting the other team for the ball.

2.   Controlling the ball; don’t kick the ball wildly.

3.   Communicating with and encouraging one another.

Those things represent foundation and the potential for our greatest growth as individuals and as a team.

Coach Brian

A Team Comes Together

This story – call it a journey if you will; and, certainly an adventure, begins at the Atlanta Soccer Academy (“ASA”).

In the Fall season of 2008 two dynamic groups of young female soccer players were preparing to cross paths and converge.

Haley Anne Cork, Hannah Erger and Christy Tovar were Captains of the ASA U12 Shockers. This team finished the Fall season with a remarkable 12 – 0 record that included 7 shutouts (clean sheets).

The ASA U14 Blast were a team of certain potential, comprised of young fighters possessed of great heart – but few wins. 

The Fall season drew to a close and heralded the ASA Rec Rock tournament.

Shockers 2008 Spring Extreme Cup ChampionsRecognizing the potential in the Blast (players), Brian Cork approached Blast coach Pat Ward suggesting that Haley Anne Cork and Christy Tovar might be ready to move up to U14 early – and, possibly spark the Blast for the looming tournament. This would also be a reasonable proving ground to determine if Haley Anne and Christy could move up in age-group early and reunite with AC Anderson with whom they had won the 2008 Spring ASA Extreme Cup.

The Blast finished the tournament with a record of 0 – 3- 0. Brian Cork had looked into the eyes of all the players and come to the conclusion that playing “not to lose” was not good enough for these latent champions!

Quickly families were drawn together over a common goal where focus had to be on a team centered on citizenship, fair-play, skills development – and, a work ethic driving towards the realization of the players fullest potential – as individuals and a team.

After a great deal of evaluation it was decided that a new team would be formed under the Forsyth Fusion banner. 

Today, we are the Fusion Shockers

“We Control the Midfield Line; We Charge the Goal; and, We Protect our Goalie”.  “We Want The Ball”.

Our motto:

“Control, Charge, Protect”. 

The Spring 2009 campaign officially begins the week of February 23rd. However, we have a “trial-by-fire” tournament looming February 21st and 22nd.

Our mission and goal for this tournament is to be READY and to come together as a TEAM.

We shall remember these days… Our character will be tested; our skills sharpened; and, our name legion.

brian  patrick cork, coach