KERSEY — The objective is simple: end the streak.
Since the NY/PA Corporate Cup Soccer Showcase began in 2017, no Pennsylvania boys team has come away with a victory against its New York counterparts. This year’s Keystone State squad is eager to change that.
“We’re here to win,” said Elk County Catholic’s T.J. Weaver, head coach of this year’s Pennsylvania squad. “Pennsylvania hasn’t won it yet, and it’s about time we do.”
At Weaver’s disposal are some of District 9 and 10’s best players. This year’s PA roster features 23 players, six of whom hail from Bradford High and another six of which come from Warren. The other 11 are scattered across District 9 from St. Marys, Ridgway/Johnsonburg, Port Allegany/Smethport, Brockway, DuBois, Kane and Curwensville.
Narrowing the roster down to that number was a challenge for Weaver and his staff, as about 40 players tried out.
“The kids tried out hard, and it was a hard decision,” Weaver said. “You have your elite (players) and then your other guys, and the difference between our top and bottom guy, there wasn’t that much of one this year. I was really pleased with that.”
If selecting the team wasn’t challenging enough, getting the roster prepared for gameday has been an even bigger task. The 2020 Corporate Cup was initially set for May 17, but due to the coronavirus pandemic got pushed back to this Sunday.
What followed the initial postponement was plenty of waiting for a green light, and as soon as Weaver and his staff received the go-ahead from game manager Kris Linderman, the Pennsylvania boys were back to work. Team practices have been held in Kersey and DuBois Central Catholic and DuBois public facilities.
“When we got the go-ahead from Kris, we were excited,” Weaver said. “We went right away, and two days later we had a practice. We had the kids going, which is good because they were as excited as we were to get started, and now Aug. 2 can’t come quick enough.
“And I’d like to thank Kersey, DuBois Catholic and DuBois public for letting us use their facilities.”
Any worries about team members being ready for the game were quickly put to rest. Weaver indicated that just about every player on Pennsylvania’s team showed up in good condition.
“The kids came in shape, which was surprising for being off from practices for so long and not being able to do anything,” Weaver said. “Most of the guys came in ready to go.”
Players were given running and ball-control drills to work on by themselves as the summer months went by, and, “it seems a lot of them did what they were asked to do,” according to Weaver.
Now, as the teams prepare for Sunday’s match, Pennsylvania’s coaches — Weaver and assistants Matt Erickson (DuBois), Denny Flatt (Warren), Aaron Clark (Port A/Smethport), Phil Esposito (DuBois Central Catholic) and Alex O’Neill (Elk County Catholic) — are focused on getting the players to sync up on the field.
“With this group and its skill level, it’s about getting game-ready and getting (the players) familiar with each other and getting our flow and pace down,” Weaver said.
Practices have included working short sided and on set plays, with hopes of getting the players to gel as a unit.
“That’s a challenge in itself: getting the kids to learn each other’s names and where they’re going to go,” Weaver said. “Soccer is a thinking man’s game, so you have to be one step ahead of the other guy. I think our kids are gelling now; they look good, and they’re ready to play.
“It’s not one of those things where we’re trying to speed them up. We’re actually trying to slow them down and to calm down before the game so they aren’t overly excited.”
And as it is with every Corporate Cup, each player will get his shot on the field and receive plenty of opportunities.
Listed at forward for the Pennsylvania boys are: Vinicius Nunes (St. Marys), Clayton Zilkofski (Johnsonburg), Colton Swanson (Bradford), Noah Bash (Brockway), Ian Grady (Bradford).
At wing are: Jacob Mullins (Curwensville), Isaiah Pingie (Bradford) and Ryan Miller (Bradford).
Midfielders for Pennsylvania are: Justin Kalgren (DuBois), Jared Marchiori (Brockway), Simon Burleson (Port Allegany), Josh Greville (Kane), John Page (Warren), Brennan Grady (Bradford), Ryon Flatt (Warren), Zane Anderson (Warren) and Wesley Kiehl (Warren).
Defending are Jack Darling (Warren), Mason Feikls (Kane), Ayron Hart (Bradford) and Zach Farrell (DuBois).
Ian Darling (Warren) and Evan Schmidt (Bradford) will split goalkeeping duties.
In addition, Port Allegany’s A.J. Edgell was selected for the game, but is unable to participate due to military duties with the U.S. Marines.
“The plan is to start with our core group and sub as we go,” Weaver said. “Each kid will get a fair amount of time, and we’ll go with the good ones and hopefully pull out a victory for Pennsylvania.”