Local soccer team one of four vying for national title
What started from a simple breakfast meeting just two short years ago now has a local soccer team on the brink of a possible national title.
LYSC Elite 98, a U-15 boys soccer team comprised mostly of Ephrata and Lititz area players, is one of four teams that has qualified for the President’s Cup National Tournament to be held in Greenville, South Carolina July 9.
Elite 98 (33-3-1 on the season) qualified after winning the Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup and then the Mid-Atlantic Regional title.
“I don’t know how this story is going to end but I hope it ends with us winning the National Cup,” Dave Coryell, an assistant coach on the team from Ephrata said.
How the story began is equally compelling.
It all started from that breakfast meeting two years ago between Coryell, the Ephrata coach, and Jeff Truemphy, the coach of the Lititz team. Both teams were quite successful playing against each other for several years in the Lanco League.
However, according to Coryell, both squads were at a point where they had “gone about as far as we could go,” and players from both teams would be faced with the decision to stop playing or pay between $1300 to $3500 to join a premier team.
That’s when an email from Truemphy reached Coryell’s inbox one day, and the two sat down to talk during breakfast.
“(Truemphy) had a vision to pull the two teams together,” Coryell said. “We both happened to be at a place we had taken these groups of kids about as far as we could go with the talent we had…It was right about then that his email came through.”
“The timing was perfect,” Coryell said. “I attribute it to there happened to be two clubs next to each other that were willing to say, ‘we can be better together.’ We would have had a bunch of kids either giving up the sport because they weren’t going to be challenged, or parents were going to have to pay for their kids to play on an even better team (at the premier level). So, we decided to form this team, and the Lititz Youth Soccer Club has a clause in their club bylaws that you can create a premier team. And so we got approval through their club, and we got started.”
The team did well in it’s first year of competition, but really took off this year after having tryouts and adding a few new players to the mix. Competing in the top division of the Delco League, Elite 98 went undefeated in the regular season and captured the end of season tournament in the fall.
This spring, the team won all of its regular games again and suffered its lone blemish at the PA Classics Premier Challenger Tournament. However, that loss occurred during flight play, and the team was able to rebound and advance all the way to the finals and win the tournament.
That set the stage for the team’s amazing post-season run, which started with a perfect 5-0 mark on their way to capturing the Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup in early May. That qualified them for the Region One championships held at Slippery Rock.
The team won four games and advanced all the way to the finals, only to seemingly come up short and finish second. However, a few days after losing the final, Elite 98 was informed that the team that defeated them in the finals was disqualified, and Elite 98 would be declared champions and represent Region One at nationals.
“The drama involved was just amazing,” Coryell recalled. “(The finals) was a game where we really out-played the other team but didn’t win. We were just so bummed..And then four days later we were sitting there living with this loss, and we get a call that the other team was disqualified and our team advances to the national finals. It was just unbelievable.”
Now, the biggest challenge the team faces prior to the tournament is raising enough funds to cover its expenses. Coryell estimated that it will cost about $15,000 for the entire trip, and for a team that unlike most premier teams does not have any paid coaches and tries to keep the cost down by not charging exuberant fees, raising that kind of money in a short period of time is difficult.
They have received a few donations from leagues as well as local businesses but are seeking more over the next few weeks to hit their goal.
“It’s coming along but we have a long way to go and not a lot of weeks to get there,” Coryell said. We are doing the best that we can.”
As for the tournament, Elite 98 will face the Region II champion (Midwest) in the semifinals, although the rest of the teams are still to be determined as of this writing.