Players from far and wide

Farflung teamwork: DSA United captures U19 boys state soccer title

'Dedicated, passionate' U19 pitch squad features athletes from 13 Maine communities
By Zack Miller | Aug 22, 2019
Courtesy of: Paula Bourque Dutch Soccer Academy United U19 state champions.

Warren — "If you build it he will come."

Most people recognize that quote from Field of Dreams, which starred Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones, but it also applied to a group of soccer players in Maine, except the "he" became "they."

The PITCH, located in Warren, already had a Dutch Soccer Academy United boys team, but PITCH owner, and DSA director, Robbie Krul, decided one wasn't enough.

“I decided to make a second team, because we were only going to have one team," said Krul. "This [second] team became the new team and then we didn’t understand who was going to come [and play]. Without much recruiting we had 16 kids on the roster. By that time, it didn’t dawn on me that they were all from 13 communities."

The communities stretched as far north as Caribou and south to Scarborough, with players ages 17 to 19. In fact, the distance between the players from the farthest reaches of the state was 310 miles and nearly five hours travel.

The team, coached by current University of Southern Maine men's soccer coach Mike Keller, included the following players and the schools they played for: Casey Bourque of Gardiner High School, Logan Butler and Alex Cousins of Cony High School in Augusta, Tim Chappelle of Boothbay Region High School, Logan Curtis, Noah Jacobs and Cassidy Pound of Mount View High School in Thorndike, Alex Ezzy of Caribou High School, Joseph Horovitz of Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro, Wyatt Keller of Scarborough High School, Havanna Lyman of Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport, Gavin Patridge of Hampden Academy, Koyla Philbrook of Oceanside High School in Rockland, William Shaffer of Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, Brendan Waterman of Gorham High School and Hunter Longley of Lincolnville, who attended Camden Hills but did not play for the Windjammers.

Longley was the only player who did not previously compete in high school soccer, and had never played organized soccer on a team, but because of the experience with DSA will try out for the Windjammer boys soccer team this fall.

“It was a lot of pressure, and if I didn’t have the teammates I did I don’t think I’d been able to do it," said Longley about playing goalie for the first time in his life. "I wasn’t going to play, but the [original] goalie tore his ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] and [Krul] came up to me at the PITCH and asked me if I wanted to play, and I told him I would try it out for a bit. [Lyman] got me to play a little bit, and from then on it was all teamwork.

"[My feelings were] a little different, and not normal (when Krul asked me to play). I didn’t know if I would be good, and I was a little shy at first because I’d never [played] before, and didn’t know how people would think of me [as a goalie]. I thought it would be fun and something new and just went for it."

DSA competed in the Maine State Premiere League with nine other club teams from around the state, and trained once a week at the PITCH, as all the teenagers commuted from their various locations, except for Ezzy, who only played in games due to the distance and time it took to get from Caribou on a weekday.

"It was a little difficult, but our 18 [-year-old] and 19 [-year-old] kids train together," said Keller. "The guys are intelligent so they pick things up quickly, which made it better. This was the best commitment level I’ve ever had. I would say we had at least 80 percent [of the players] at every training session, even with kids playing spring sports. We tried to arrange our practices so they wouldn’t conflict [with other things]."

"This group of 16 players was not always playing together [due to other circumstances], they had 12, 13 or 14 kids at each game, but would always have 11 [to field a full team]," said Krul. "After six games the team ended in second place [in the league]. Our expectations are never to win, but to provide opportunities for players that don’t have a place to play."

“I’ve been coaching for 30 years and club teams for many years and I’ve had many different groups from all over the state, but that group was very special," said Keller. "Mostly because of their dedication and passion. I had a lot of players that loved the game of soccer and wanted to get better, and that hasn’t always been the case for me as a coach.

"We weren’t the most talented, but we played better soccer in the last game and did what we had to do to win. It was a special team. A lot of them wanted to play in college and having a college coach coaching them helped them. My goal was to get all the players better and I think we did that."

DSA made it to the Maine State Premiere League state championship contest on Sunday, June 2 at Thomas College in Waterville, and faced a Western Maine United team that beat DSA 2-0 in the regular season.

"The group of boys [at WMU] have been together since they were little, and all from one community," said Krul. "[DSA] fell behind 1-0 in the first 10 minutes, and our captain [Lyman] gets kicked on the ankle, and we had to take him out. [Despite the injury] the whole [game] shifted, and the team became a team in that moment.

"In the second half it was still 1-0, and [DSA] continued to come together, while [WMU] started to get snappy with each other. Typically there is no good ending with these stories, because, typically, you lose, but in this case [DSA] tied it 1-1.

"The game went into (a 15-minute) overtime, then a second (15-minute) overtime which also ended tied, so we went into penalty kicks."

The game's outcome rested on Longley's play in net, as well as the feet of the other DSA players, but the moment for Longley was a first.

"In the beginning of the penalty kicks [one of my coaches] said if it was [a certain WMU player] to dive to the left side, and I agreed with him, because during the game that was the only side they shot on," said Longley. "The last moment my heart was racing and I was really nervous, but I dove to the left and made contact and got me really excited."

"[Longley] never played goalie before, and throughout the year he let easy goals in, but our [players] never gave up on [Longley] and lifted him up," said Krul. "In the final, both teams scored on all their penalty kicks and we told [Longley] you only need to save that one [shot]."

Longley saved that one shot, and on the next DSA penalty kick Philbrook buried the ball in the back of the net to give DSA a 2-1 victory and the coveted state title.

"I ran over, and everyone was running and hugging, and some people lost shoes, but it was a whole different feeling and intense," said Longley.

"It was special for Hunter," said Keller. "He didn’t come with a lot of knowledge about goal keeping, but he was passionate for it. I was worried at the beginning of the year to see how he would do, but he kept getting better. I couldn’t be happier for someone that started at such a low level and then helped us win a state championship.

"I was so happy for the guys. They had really earned it and worked hard. The team we played against had better individual players but we played a better team game. We didn’t have a go-to guy or a guy that was head-and-shoulders above everyone else. We played as a team and won."

"It’s pretty cool to see the kids come together and have fun for the year and have something to talk about the rest of their lives," said Krul.

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