Congratulations to our C-Squad Soccer team for facing a tough opponent with courage and grit. A special thank you to Assistant Coach Diccon Ong for a colorful and exceptional recap.
Your humble author wants to acknowledge from the start that when he awoke this morning and saw from his bedroom window gray clouds covering the sky, there was something seemingly ominous in the vista. After all, this was the day on which our beloved C-Squad soccer team would be competing for the very first time of the Fall 2022 season. Head Coach Todd Gilbert had spent the past few practices working with the players who would make up our squad today, but they clearly had yet to be tested in any meaningful way. In addition to the obvious questions of our current capacity to play coherent soccer, we would be attempting to execute a clean and efficient uniform pickup and loading of two vans with fourteen inexperienced kids (mostly freshmen and new sophomores) for the very first time. As might have been expected, we had two players who didn’t yet own their own shin guards and another who didn’t arrive at the gym until a minute before we were scheduled to depart. Again, bad signs.
Happily, Coach Gilbert made a mad dash to the bookstore to buy a couple sets of guards. Day saved! We loaded up the vans and headed up Route 91 to Twinsburg High School. If anything, the skies had only darkened over the course of the day, and as we traveled north the outbreak of a storm appeared a distinct possibility. At our departure the temperature had been dropping. By the time we pulled into the parking lot next to the relatively wet field it had reached a cool 70-degrees.
Due to our slightly delayed departure, we had left ourselves only about a half an hour to warm up before the game. This routine was yet another thing we had never been through together. It showed. Still, Gilbert had time to explain to the boys the game plan with care, we managed to do some dynamic stretching to limber up, and followed that with some Monkey in the Middle in small groups of midfielders and forwards and some long passing between our starting backs. Finally, we lined up to take some shots on goal to warm up our keeper and practice our finishing. By this time, it became apparent that no referee had yet arrived to call the game. It was already a couple minutes past 4 p.m. Omen number three . . . four?
The ref never showed. Save-of-the-day (number two, if you’re counting) came in the form of Mr. Farian (father of our center forward, Julian Farian '26), who volunteered (bravely, in my opinion) to officiate the game. Both sides having come to play a game, were . . . well, game (ahem). This would be Twinsburg’s fourth contest of the fall. They had a 2-1 record. According to their coach, they were a true freshman squad, but they clearly had four or five players noticeably larger than our biggest guy. Still, we have all seen sides whose collective size advantage amounts to naught. As it happens, however, these guys were pretty darn good. They moved the ball well, played physically and at a swift pace, demonstrated solid foot skills, and clearly understood how to play as a unit. We didn’t look nearly as put together. Especially in our first twenty minutes on the field. We couldn’t seem to string together more than two or three passes before being intercepted by a Twinsburg Tiger. They possessed the ball roughly 75-80% of the time in this opening stage of the game. They also managed two very solid shots on our goal, and things would have been grim in the extreme if not for the stellar play of freshman keeper, Logan Adams. He played with the poise and composure of a much more mature player.
Adams was one of just a small handful of players who were managing to keep us in the game at this point. Of particular note in this regard was one of our center backs, Pol Miguel Collado '25. It can be stated with confidence that he was our best field player of the day. (Leading one to wonder if we will ever coach him again. You’re welcome JV!). In addition to a host of nicely honed ball skills, Pol seemed to have an innate sense of where he needed to be on the field at any given moment in the game. We also saw early signs of promise in the play of our starting midfielders Thomas Casey '26, Evan Williams '26, and Sanam Mody '26.
By the 30-minute mark, our play had become notably better. Possession approached a more reasonable 50-50 split. We also finally started to threaten their defensive third of the field. Still, we couldn’t quite seem to make that final effective pass for an attempted shot. Then, in the 36th minute, A Tiger fouled one of our forwards in the box. We were awarded a penalty kick. Another first for our guys. Despite calls from the sidelines from Coach Gilbert for another player to take the penalty shot, Julian Farian stepped to the line. On the whistle, he drove a well-hit ball right into the hands of the Twinsburg keeper. However, he struck the ball with sufficient force to drive the arms of the Tiger keeper, both of which had wrapped themselves around the ball, over the plane of the goal face. WRA had drawn first blood! Perhaps these tigers could be tamed.
In an arguably understandable twist in the plot, the Pioneers let their collective guard down in the first few minutes following the restart and allowed the attacking Tigers through our defenses and then compounded an already bad situation by committing a handball infraction inside the ’18, thus conceding a PK. Tit for tat, I suppose. We were tied once more, and that is how the first half ended.
As usual, Coach Gilbert gave an effective halftime talk to his squad. He layered well-deserved praise with equally necessary instruction to tweak some of our play. He also warned them that the next 36 minutes would be even more taxing than the first, and they needed to brace themselves for the effort that would be required to keep our more experienced opponent from rebounding. Regardless, upon the resumption of the game, the Tigers appeared hungrier than our own Pioneers. The majority of the possession was once again claimed by our adversaries. In the 19th minute, a goal kick inexplicably taken by a player other than our skilled goalie was driven directly into the chest of a Twinsburg midfielder who passed it to a forward who, in turn, quickly scored. We now trailed for the first time in the game.
To their great credit, our boys rose to the challenge and started to play with a bit more urgency and determination following this third goal of the game. Every player on the squad (and each player on our bench was rotated in regularly, gaining quality minutes on the pitch) contributed to the effort in a meaningful way. Our starting backs (l-r), Grant Adams, Pol Miguel Collado, Jayden Kersh '26, and Finn Frato-Sweeney '26, played every minute and proved a formidable set of defenders. Sanam Mody, Thomas Casey, and Evan Williams worked as an effective trio in the middle of the field. Julian Farian, Alston Dabbiere '25, Alex Lee '26, Bryton Miller '26, Bob Wang '24, and Raven Wang '25 all enjoyed multiple moments where they either stole the ball from an opponent or received a pass from a teammate and skillfully moved it further up the field of play.
Still, it was mostly a back-and-forth affair for the next several minutes, with neither side managing any shots on goal. Then, in the 29th minute, Alex Lee received a beautiful ball from Thomas Casey and proceeded to beat three separate defenders as he dribbled some twenty yards down the middle of the field before placing a great shot just out of the reach of the diving Tiger keeper. Tied game again!
In the final minute of the contest, a Tiger mauled one of our midfielders, Sanam Mody, right in the center circle. He went down hard. The game was paused and then declared over as we helped Sanam back to the bench. He had twisted his ankle in the collision. It remains to be seen just how badly. This last-minute injury was sobering, but ultimately it failed to prevent us all for feeling a sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t a win, but it felt very much like a victory. We felt, justifiably or otherwise, that we had headed into the eye of a storm this afternoon and had defied the fates.
Was that the sun I saw trying to poke a ray or two through the cloud cover as we made our way back home to Hudson? It’s all about reading the signs correctly, I guess.
Goals: WRA – 2 (Julian Farian, PK, 32’ 1st Half & Alex Lee, 29’ 2nd Half)
THS – 2
Shots on Goal:
WRA – 2
THS – 8
WRA – 6
Twinsburg – 0
WRA – 1
Twinsburg – 4
WRA – 4
THS – 7
No cards were presented to either side.