Tourney scores good marks
BARBOURSVILLE -- They went to movies and swam, and some even watched the funeral procession for the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd. They also reported no trouble getting around and found local residents to be friendly.
Guests who came from out of state for the US Youth Soccer Region I Championships said they had a good experience in the Huntington area.
Francis Ngoh, whose son, Julian, played for the VSA Heat Blue, said their stay was good. The drive from Virginia was scenic, and they stayed busy in their off hours going to movies, swimming and visiting some local parks, Ngoh said. They stayed at the Wingate in South Charleston.
His one complaint was that the fields were a little drier with more sparse grass than at other fields where Julian has played. But it was a great complex, he said.
"Except for the grass, it looks like a soccer mecca, with the mountains around it and everything," Ngoh said.
For six days, the Tri-State was a soccer mecca, with about 280 teams from 13 states in the area to compete in the Region 1 championships, which concluded Tuesday. Altogether, an estimated 16,000 players, family members, referees and tournament officials were in the Tri-State for the tournament.
Len Rogers, chairman of the local organizing committee and president of West Virginia Soccer, said he thinks the tournament went smoothly and that he'd take this year's heat and humidity over last year's rain anytime. Last year, the first year the area hosted the regional soccer tournament, heavy rains made fields unplayable on some days and alternative sites had to be found.
"We've really had no complaints," he said. "At this point, I see that we really could have used a little drink of water (for the soccer fields), but after last year, I'm not complaining."
Instead of rain, this year's one complication was with the heat, said Dave Laraba, executive director of West Virginia Soccer.
"You hope you don't have the same problem two years in a row," he said. "This year, we had to have extra medical staff, who paid attention to heat exhaustion."
They were in charge of making sure that players took required water breaks and were constantly reminding people to drink plenty of water, Laraba said.
Other than the heat, the event seemed to be a definite success, Rogers said, giving credit to the staff of seven, as well as about 30 core volunteers and about 400 volunteers in total. He and Laraba also thanked the public works department and administration of Barboursville, and the staff at the Huntington YMCA for their care of the fields at Barboursville Park and the YMCA Kennedy Center.
And they appreciated how Tri-Staters welcomed the soccer community and their patience with traffic and long lines at restaurants.
"Everyone talks about how friendly the people are here, and how they don't give you the wrong directions," Laraba said. "They give you the right directions."
Judith Adair of Massachussetts, whose son made it to the finals Tuesday with the FC Stars, said she thought the event was well-organized.
"We've been lucky enough to stay in the dorms at Marshall," she said. "We've been helped everywhere we went."
Angela Walker, whose 13-year-old daughter Tyus played with the HSC Blast of Delaware, said her daughter's team was assigned to stay at the Holiday Inn Charleston House in Charleston, but switched to the Holiday Inn in Barboursville later during the tournament.
She didn't like the distance from Charleston or the hotel there as much, but said girls on the team got the experience of seeing the funeral processional for Sen. Byrd, which passed through during their stay, and there were some street festivities right outside their hotel over the weekend.
"The girls had a good time," Walker said.