First Time’s the Charm for Local Soccer Champs

East Falls, we have a winner!

Courtesy Meghan Smyth

In only its first year of existence, the East Falls traveling soccer team stormed through the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation League last year like Maradona through a B team defense (sorry, I imagine the kids these days prefer Ronaldo or Messi) and pulled off an upset win to take home the title for the 10 and under division in December.

As amazed as the kids were at their championship season, imagine the parents and coaches who got it all started in a whirlwind last summer at McDevitt Rec Center.

“Most teams had months to prepare for the travel season,” said assistant coach Maureen Smyth but in “less than a month, we had tryouts, bought uniforms, registered all of the coaches and players with Pennsylvania’s youth soccer association and got the team prepared for inter-city competition.”

Boy, were they prepared. The team came out kicking right from the start, winning their first game in September, 4-0. That’s when “we knew we had something” she said.

Why the quick start? Maureen points to the East Falls’ intramural soccer program at McDevitt. Most of the boys had played in the program for years “so they had basic skills and comprehension of the game.”

Head coach Meghan Smyth took it from there as she and her assistant coaches drilled the kids hard and taught them advanced skills and more complex plays as the season progressed. A college player (Arcadia) with 20 years of soccer experience, Meghan was impressed by how quickly the kids picked up the lessons and how they grew physically and mentally. “We ran them pretty hard at times to develop their skills and stamina, and they took it all in stride.”

The training included a trip to Jefferson University where the kids watched men’s soccer team games and even got to play with them afterward. One thing they couldn’t learn from these experiences was how to adapt to setbacks and the season had a few, including a 4-1 loss to undefeated Bridesburg and a tie with a very physical Kensington team.

It was the team’s toughest game of the year and helped them identify a weakness they could build on – after the game, the coaching staff worked hard “teaching the boys how to balance and control the ball when there was an opponent battling against them.”

Courtesy Maureen Smyth

By the time they faced Kensington again in the semifinals, they were a far different team. “We could hold our own and handle the physicality of the game.” They had also developed a very stingy defense “which is the key to a strong squad,” according to Maureen. “Our guys shut down the other teams in almost every game, led by our speedster, Lamir Calloway, and supported by Jack Pancoski and Ben Fritch.”

On the offensive side, Eamonn Smyth led the scoring with 21 goals, Chima Auguste (11), Avery Williams (6), Liam Walsh (5), and Yusef Ballow (4). The potent offensive attack helped East Falls enter the playoffs with a strong all-around game that other teams took notice of. An early win over Torresdale prompted their coach to say “As soon as we played you guys, we knew you were going to win the whole thing.”

It wasn’t going to be easy though as the championship game pitted East Falls against heavily favored (and undefeated) Bridesburg. They had beaten East Falls 4-1 in an early season matchup and revenge didn’t seem to be in the cards for the Fallsers as Bridesburg held a 1-0 lead at halftime.

Courtesy Maureen Smyth

But the boys came out “ready to battle in the second half,” said Maureen, and were determined to beat Bridesburg to every ball. Eamonn scored about 10 minutes into the half and added a second on a “50-50 ball between Eamonn and the goalkeeper at the top of the 18-yard line” that just barely made it into the corner of the net. The squad held on for the final hectic minutes til the whistle, when all of the players and coaches stormed the field to celebrate the big win in one giant huddle!

Later this month, the kids will claim their trophies at the 2017 Philadelphia Soccer Awards Banquet. In the meantime, we asked assistant coach Nigel Auguste to sum up the reason for the championship season — “The kids did it. Their determination and understanding. It’s at a higher level than the other kids in the league.” They’ll have a chance to prove it again next fall — as the defending champions.

Courtesy Maureen Smyth

Be an Athlete — or an Athletic Supporter (ha)

If you’ve got a youngster who loves soccer or baseball, East Falls Sports Association (EFSA) has online registration in February for spring leagues.

Travel soccer will hold tryouts again in the late spring for the fall season. The team will move up from U10 to U11, so players born in 2008 or 2009 are welcome to try out. They’ve also been gauging interest in the neighborhood for another travel team – boys or girls, but they’d need coaches and players to step up!

EFSA is 100% volunteer-run from the board to the coaches, to the snack shop to lining the fields. If parents, grandparents, and other members of the community are interested in volunteering, or if your business is interested in sponsoring a team, please email efsasports@gmail.com for more information! And follow EF Soccer on Facebook, too.

Big Thanks to the Parents! “The parents of our boys are amazing people, bringing their kids to every practice and game, cheering us on loudly on the sideline,” Maureen stressed. Many are small business owners and sponsors of EFSA sports, even coaches.

Special thanks to  team sponsors, Liberty Veterinary Clinic and Wissahickon Cyclery, and to other businesses that supported the team this year, including Nadia’s Little Learners and Jefferson/Philadelphia University Men’s Soccer.

Congratulations Team!

Courtesy Meghan Smyth

PLAYERS:

  • Chima Auguste, Age 9, East Falls, William Penn Charter School.
  • Yusef Ballow, Age 9, 4th grader at Thomas Mifflin Elementary School
  • Kian Eamon Baylson, Age 9, Bala Cynwyd, 3rd grade, Cynwyd Elementary,
  • Lamir Calloway, Age 9, East Falls, Thomas Mifflin Elementary School.
  • Ben Fritch, Age 9, South Philadelphia.
  • Jack Guldalian, Age 7, East Falls, William Penn Charter School.
  • Jack Pancoski, Age 9, Pennsport, St. Peter’s School.
  • Eamonn Smyth, Age 8, East Falls, Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School.
  • Liam Walsh, Age 9, West Mt Airy, William Penn Charter School.
  • Avery Williams, age 9, East Falls, William Penn Charter School.

COACHING STAFF:

Head Coach

Meghan Smyth (Indian Queen Ln.) played competitive soccer for over 20 years, finishing up her career at Arcadia University. She owns Superior Bus Service, a school bus company located in Plymouth Meeting.

Assistant Coaches

Nigel Auguste (West Queen Ln.) is originally from Trinidad. He just completed his B.A. in Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University in December. He has two boys, and his one son Chima is on the team.

Nate Monahan (Ainslie St.) is a 2nd grade teacher at Thomas Mifflin Elementary School. He and his wife have a son, Evan, and a baby on the way.

Maureen Smyth (Stanton St.), is on the Board of Directors of the EF Sports Assoc. and is also Eamonn’s mom. She works for International SOS, the world’s leading medical & travel security assistance company, and is currently pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Disaster Medicine & Management at Jefferson University.

 

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