Lt. Col. Oscar Malave
A team of Fort Drum Soldiers and Civilians took first place in the 2013 Tug Hill Summer Soccer League after a hard-fought 4-0 victory against a talented Davis and Sons team in the final game Sunday in Lowville.
The Mountain Lions advanced to the finals with a nine-game win streak and an overall 11-2 record. They earned the pass to the finals by narrowly defeating the Ridge View Inn team, 3-2.
Their next opponent, Davis and Sons, was considered the team to beat, as they had prevailed against the Mountain Lions, 4-3, in their previous outing.
In the playoff finals game, the Mountain Lions played solid defense and controlled the midfield throughout.
This allowed the forwards to control the tempo of the game with multiple opportunities to score. The Mountain Lions led 2-0 at half-time.
Head coach Shaun Nurse, a retired Soldier and Civilian Employee at Conner Troop Medical Clinic, gave a pep talk to the players that resonated well with the team.
“The next 45 minutes of play are the most important minutes you will play in the whole tournament; you continue to play Mountain Lions ball and you will be the champions,” he said. “Just like the motto, you must ‘Climb to Glory.’”
Coach Nurse calls the players Mountain Lions in reference to the team’s Fort Drum roots and the disciplined game he instills in them. All team players are either Soldiers or Civilians with ties to Fort Drum.
Assistant coach Sgt. 1st Class Marco Arboleda, 710th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, reinforced the pep talk by telling the team, “Do not be complacent; consider the score as 0-0.”
The Mountain Lions players took the coaches’ pep talk to heart and set an even faster pace throughout the second half. The physical fitness of the Mountain Lions team played a key factor in the win, in addition to the unselfish play of the midfields and forwards.
The 4-0 score is misleading, as the Davis and Sons team came very close to scoring multiple times. However, the Fort Drum solid defense and the goalkeepers’ timely saves were up to the task and provided crisp passing to the midfielders to press the counter-attack play.
As the Davis and Sons team tired, the Fort Drum team continued their focus, discipline and crisp play, netting two more goals in the second half.
The team discipline was evident throughout the season and culminated in the 2013 regular season championship and playoffs championship. After five years of participating in the league, the Mountain Lions have finally climbed to the top for the first time.
The team respect for coach Nurse was evident in that he only got slightly drenched with water in the traditional celebration that followed.
Members of the team will continue to practice at 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursdays, as they prepare for the upcoming indoor season at the Watertown YMCA.