Victorious, IMG Academy soccer program's U14 team recently returned Sunday from a trip to the Region III President's Cup in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Under the lead of coaches Nolan Sheldon and Tonio Paternostro, the team tallied five wins and zero losses on their way to capturing the Cup and the right to advance to US Youth Soccer National President's Cup in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, July 8-11.
Despite going undefeated, each win was hard fought. While the U14 team controlled the tempo in most games, the other teams were physical enough to keep the games competitive. IMG started their tournament play on Friday against Each Ridge Express- the Tennessee State Champions. IMG led 1-0 when East Ridge Express netted one to tie up the game. Nearing the end of the second half, the referee awarded IMG a controversial PK after F Paul Sime of Guadalupe was taken down in the box. In the middle of a promising scoring opportunity, Paul was battling two defenders when he hit the ground. Despite the controversy and pressure, Center Midfielder Miche Zarur calmly capitalized on the scoring opportunity to put IMG ahead for good 2-1. Later in the day, IMG faced the South Carolina State Champs, CUFC 95 Palmetto, defeating them handily 3-0 behind goals from Paul Sime, Jake Dube, Stephen Ravazzoli.
Saturday morning, following the final pool play game against Georgia's Cobb FC Premier, IMG found themselves 3-0 and advancing to the Semifinals against FSC Force Premiere of North Carolina. Sam Kuznicki netted the only goal of the game to advance IMG to the Sunday morning final.
In the final, IMG battled a strong North Texas squad to a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation. IMG's lone regulation goal came off a first half Miche Zarur free kick. "It was beautifully placed," said Coach Paternostro, "The ball was spotted just outside the 18 and he placed it over the wall to the near post. The keeper got a hand on it but it was just too good of a shot." The tie forced the game to move into overtime. Reminiscent of game one on day one of the tournament, Paul Sime was fouled in the box and a cool Miche Zarur capitalized on the PK for his second goal of the match. IMG held out til the end of the overtime period was the Cup.
According to Coach Paternostro, Coach Sheldon is the driving force behind the U14's accomplishments. Working with the team since August, he provides a great, positive environment that motivates them to continuously work hard and improve. Also notable in the team's success is Forward Paul Sime who, in addition to his contributions on the field, "has really developed into a leader and great motivator for the team." Coach attributes this to IMG's unique communication development program, ...game on.
Next up, the team travels to the National Tournament in Tennessee, July 8-11
IMG Academy soccer program U14 Region III President's Cup Roster
Danny Hernandez (GK)