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Tournament Notebook: Fields in better condition than last year

Jul. 05, 2010 @ 12:00 AM

Dave Laraba drove around in his cart as people walked around him.

As simple as it sounds, this was a beautiful sight.

Last year, Laraba darn-well needed a boat for transportation and others could have used flippers.

The 2009 US Youth Region I Championships was, at times, a swim meet with a soccer ball. The rains came and they rarely stopped, causing flood-like conditions and turning fields at the Barboursville Soccer Complex into slops of mud.

As for the 2010 Region I championships ...

"People are telling us they want the fields watered now," said Laraba, the executive director of the West Virginia Soccer Association. "Which is hilarious."

Ironic too.

"Where we're standing right now was a lake last year," Laraba said with a chuckle.

This year, it's more like a dust bowl. But, hey, it's dry, it's playable and most importantly, it's caused little negative feedback.

"We've had no complaints this week," said Len Rogers, WVSA's president. "None."

Thank you, Mother Nature.

Clouds have barely hovered over the Tri-State area this week, let alone has a drop of rain trickled down.

In fact, the only form of precipitation that's hit the pitches has come from the pores of the players.

With temperatures flirting around 90 degrees, the Region I championship has turned into a sweaty situation. Referees have been stopping play once each half for water breaks.

But it's better hot, than wet.

"It's feast or famine, but we'd rather have it this way over what it was last year because we can play on this," Laraba said.

For those who are still playing in Monday's semifinals, they'll have to make sure to double up on the sunscreen and drop a few extra ice cubes in the water bottle. Monday's high is set for 93 degrees and the wind is only going to blow at a not-so-comforting 4 mph.

It won't be breezy, but it shall be toasty.

WHAT'S IN A NAME: Pele's here. So is Keane. So is Harkes.

The Player's Development Academy out of Zarephath, New Jersey, carries a neat tradition with how it goes about naming its teams.

It honors a famous soccer player by sticking their name at the end of their team's titles.

They're seven PDA squads at this week's tournament. Five of them have soccer-familiar labels: U-12 Boys PDA Pele, named after the World Cup-winning Brazilian, U-13 Boys PDA Keane, named after the former Manchester United star, U-14 Boys PDA, McGeough named after the former Irish player, U-15 Boys PDA Harkes, named after the former U.S. captain and current ESPN soccer analyst and U-19 Boys Cruyff, named after the former Dutch star.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Mark and Patrick Conley executed a father-son double-play of sorts at the Barboursville Soccer Complex this week.

Mark Conley was dismissed from a contest on Saturday after an exchange with an official following an injury in the second half of a match. After his dismissal, the WV Revolution U-18 Boys scored a pair of goals in a 3-1 win.

Sunday, it was Patrick's turn for Fourth of July fireworks as he got dismissed from the WVSC Wizards U-15 Boys matchup against Beadling SC (Pa.-W). The end result was not the same, however, as the team fell to Beadling 6-1.

BARBOURSVILLE SEMIS: All of Monday's semifinal matches will take place at the Barboursville Soccer Complex. Start times run from 8 a.m. to 12:25 p.m.

West Virginia's last team standing -- the U-12 Girls West Virginia United Soccer Club Elite -- plays at 10:45 a.m. on Field 13.

Andrew Ramspacher and Grant Traylor are sports reporters for The Herald-Dispatch.