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Rec Sports Spotlight: Predators enjoying soccer success

The Freedom Soccer Club under-11 Predators. Standing, left to right: Coach Matt Wanex, Griffin Lane, Grant Bernstein, Noah Edwards, Daniel Riley, Jackson Wanex, Liam Beatson, Coach Scott Beatson. Kneeling: Mason Lee, Zachary Chapman, Jacob Heidtman, Abraham Akinladenu, Ryan Bauer, Braeden Audlin. Not Pictured: Brady Fitzpatrick, Justin Asiedu.
The Freedom Soccer Club under-11 Predators. Standing, left to right: Coach Matt Wanex, Griffin Lane, Grant Bernstein, Noah Edwards, Daniel Riley, Jackson Wanex, Liam Beatson, Coach Scott Beatson. Kneeling: Mason Lee, Zachary Chapman, Jacob Heidtman, Abraham Akinladenu, Ryan Bauer, Braeden Audlin. Not Pictured: Brady Fitzpatrick, Justin Asiedu. (Submitted photo)

The Freedom Soccer Club's boys new 2006 under-11 Predators soccer team made its first competition a winning one a month ago. The local team swept four games at Lancaster over the Labor Day weekend to win the Keystone Cup tournament.

Now the Predators have entered their fall regular season league and face new challenges.

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There were a lot of new players this year, eight of them as a matter of fact. All had good skills. And all of them had previous soccer experience, but not with each other.

These kids were also playing soccer with nine on a team for the first time instead of the 7-on-7 of last year. With many new teammates, different rules and different coaches, there was a lot of change to contend with.

Head coach Scott Beatson and assistant coach Matt Wanex knew they had their work cut out for them in molding this team for the season. However, they also knew that their players, in addition to talent, also had some valuable intangibles.

"We didn't know what to expect. But we knew we had smart and energetic kids who were willing to work. That is a good thing to have as a coach," Beatson said.

The team did an opportunity to get some work in. There was a vigorous July soccer camp and also a couple practices each week after then. The players drilled hard in the fundamentals and also worked hard on their conditioning. Beatson credited that conditioning as part of the reason for their later success in Lancaster.

The coaches got their first inkling of how good their team could be when the boys played in the Freedom Soccer Club's Scrimmagefest the first weekend of August.

This was an informal tournament in which neither scores nor standings were kept. But it gave Beatson a pretty good idea about where his kids stood in advance of the season.

But the first thing was the Keystone Cup tournament. Beatson said he knew nothing of the other under-11 teams from Pennsylvania and Virginia that his kids would face.

The Predators opened Sept. 3 against the Pennsylvania Classics Premier team from Lancaster, and they won 8-1. Game 2 was similar, a 9-2 thrashing of the Mason-Dixon Fusion.

"The kids had high energy and enthusiasm, and they had success. The first two games were a balanced team effort. Five players scored in each game," Beatson said.

He also took advantage of the lopsided scores to move players around.

"I experimented with positioning. You could tell they weren't used to it and weren't comfortable with their positions. But they still made the best of it and worked as a team," Beatson said.

That win concluded pool play and moved the Predators into the championship round. There, things got a little tighter though the outcomes were the same.

The semifinal game against Penn Legacy Black was tied 1-1 at the half. Beatson said he wasn't surprised at the closeness because he had expected the teams in the final round to be stronger.

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"But I knew that if we kept up our intensity and played the way we'd played before, the ball would bounce our way and more balls would wind up in the back of the net," he said.

And more balls did wind up there — four more, actually. The Carroll kids went on to blank their opponents the second half and win the game 5-1.

Beatson noted that the superior fitness of his players was beginning to show, and they were able to maintain their intensity throughout the latter stages of the game.

The same pattern showed in the championship game with the Richmond Kickers. The Predators led the Virginia team 2-1 at the half and expanded that margin thereafter for a 4-1 victory.

"We played smart soccer. We minimized our mistakes and capitalized on theirs," Beatson said. "We were competitive throughout the game and were always on the fringe of scoring at every point. When they threatened, our defense held them. When we got close to scoring some goals, we did."

He isn't inclined to say that this or that part of his team primarily responsible with its success in the tournament. He believes that the boys' hard work in practice and their willingness to learn are the biggest reasons they won.

With that championship in hand, the Predators began play in their Eastern Development Program soccer league in mid September. Beatson explained the guiding philosophy of the Freedom Soccer Club is to prepare its players for higher things through the application of tough competition.

The New Jersey-based EDP Soccer organization, which maintains soccer leagues throughout the Middle Atlantic region, provides it.

In fact, that organization's overriding philosophy is to prepare its players for college.

The Predators opened Sept. 11 at Oklahoma Field with a 4-0 win. But they have dropped their next three EDP games.

Beatson says his players face teams that aren't only talented. They have also played together a year or two while his have been together only a couple of months. The lack of cohesion and team experience show against teams like his.

"We're still basically a new team," he stressed.

He also stressed that he is not put off be the early losses. It's about a longer time frame.

"We want to be competitive and improve each week, and then I'll see how they play," Beatson said. "They continue to work hard, and they want to learn. If we work together as we have, that will make a huge difference and we will have success. Then the wins will come."

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