Athletes display talents during preseason games

WARREN – The regular season for high school soccer may not have started yet, but Lakeview’s Alli Pavlik showed that she’s getting close to mid-season form – if she’s not there already.

During the Lakeview girls soccer team’s opening match against Poland in the Panera Bread High School Soccer Classic at John F. Kennedy High School, the senior forward received the ball in an inconvenient position, with her back facing the net and the Poland goalkeeper charging toward her.

Pavlik still managed to score, however, flicking the ball off her heel. The ball popped over her and the goalkeeper before going into the net.

“It’s a very creative play on her part,” Lakeview girls coach Shawn Varley said. “The ball came over her shoulder. Instead of turning, facing and taking the ball on, she flicked it with the back of her right heel. That’s tough to do, so it gives us some insight to what kind of player she is.”

This was one of the many plays that highlighted the fifth annual preseason soccer tournament on Saturday.

Between the boys and girls divisions, 20 teams participated in the two-day event, with the final group matches and the finals played today to decide the tournament champions.

Co-tournament director Rob Merlo said that less than one week before mandatory practice can begin, the tournament format adds a competitive aspect to the proceedings that a scrimmage format lacks.

“I think both formats are good, and they serve a purpose for preseason soccer,” Merlo said. “I think our tournament is a little bit more competitive because the kid have something to play for.

“In being so close now to the start of the season, one of the coaches from one of the teams said, ‘I can’t ask for a better way to get my team ready for the season than to bring them here and play in a tournament format.’ “

The players got a taste of the weather conditions they will see later in the season, especially come Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament time in October.

It rained for most of the day, making the balls more slick. The fields also became more difficult to manage, with mud in areas and players sliding at times.

Kennedy boys coach Scott DePasquale was full of praise for the tournament but said that this was the one downside to playing this tournament on the Kennedy fields.

“The fields are kind of tore up,” DePasquale said. “That’s the only downside about the Panera Bread (Classic). We use all of these fields right before the regular season starts, and then they’re kind of destroyed for the regular season.

“I think our game field is holding up in some pretty good shape.”

More importantly for the coaches and players, they use this tournament to get a better feel about the potential of the team for the upcoming fall season and help build chemistry between teammates on the field.

While Pavlik and Lakeview played well for the first 15 of the 40-minute match against Poland, which Lakeview won, 2-0, Varley said the team still has some way to go before the season starts.

“I think we’re still learning who we are as a team, trying to get a new identity from last year’s team,” Varley said. “The rest of the day (and tournament), hopefully we continue to realize who we are as a team.”