WAGS Tournament: West Chester United Predators Em-Bracing success
By Jimmy LaRoue
With just one training session coming into this weekend’s 37th Annual WAGS Rael Vodicka Memorial Tournament, Pennsylvania-based West Chester United SC Predators 95 coach Paul Oechsle was pleased with the way his team carried out the possession-style soccer it likes to play.
West Chester especially embraced the two second-half goals from Emily Zink in a 2-0 win over Massapequa Stars of New York in the opening game of the Under-17 Showcase I bracket on a George Mason University practice field.
“I’m just looking forward to the girls coming down here and competing the way they did and displaying themselves for the college coaches that are hopefully watching them right now,” said West Chester coach Paul Oechsle. “It’s always a great event.”
After a scoreless first half, Zink capitalized on a defensive miscue to slot in her first goal, then scored on an exquisite setup from Lauren Smith, who beat her defender to the endline then placed a pass to the top of the six-yard box for Zink, who outhustled her defender to the ball and one-timed a shot into the net.
“Emily’s an aggressive player for us,” Oechsle said. “If there’s anything coming across the field, any kind of mix in the field, she’s going to be right in the middle of it. She did that today. She knows one speed and that’s full speed, and for both of those goals, it was the same thing. She was attacking an area of the field with full speed and she made it count for herself.”
On the second goal, “Emily had to fight through a mark and sold out to make sure she got a touch to put it in.”
He said Zink doesn’t know another speed other than “full-speed ahead.”
“She sells out,” Oechsle said. “Whatever it takes, that’s her style of play for sure.”
In the past year, Zink has moved from a left-sided winger to an attacking central midfielder, with the left-footed Oechsle noting that her attitude and aggressive play disrupts other teams’ playmakers while attacking through the center.
“She’s not a player that’s going to tend to cut it back or beat a defender one-on-one; she’s going to try to beat you to [the ball] rather than sliding it around you,” Oechsle said.
Besides Zink, the strengths of West Chester United Predators run through the center of the field, starting with central defender Gillian Sencindiver as the team’s anchor in the back. In front of her, holding midfielder Sammi Ortiz, who Oechsle says is perhaps the team’s best all-around player, shares similar characteristics to Zink, but knows how to change tempo when necessary. Up top, the speedy Meg Salvadore, he said, makes teams sit back more defensively, playing to West Chester’s strengths.
He said with a cold rain in the forecast, its short passing game could favor West Chester.
“We try to still play our game,” Oechsle said. “Our game is really a lot of short ball, so if you’re on a bad field or a soggy field or in the elements, that style can play through all of them. Skill may drop a little bit; if it gets a little bit shaky, we tend to go to through-balls more often, play a more direct style. If nothing else, if we get in trouble, we play direct and into the corners. That way we can push up as a group and we defend higher on the field, get kind of reorganized.”
West Chester, he said, is built from the back forward – with a flat-back four defensive shape – and tries to exhibit patience going forward, but will also take what teams give it too.
“We’re not in a hurry to get forward,” Oechsle said. “If it’s there, we’ll take it as quick as you want to give it to us, but if it’s not there, we’ll take a nice, slow approach.”
Oechsle said he favors the setup that allows a single game per day “to give the kids the realistic–and the coaches that are watching a realistic look at the kids.”
“The venues have always been awesome down here,” Oechsle said. “This is better than any field we have, and we have great fields back at West Chester. … The venues are unbelievable down here, which is one of the big attractions for coming down here. You know that the fields are going to be quality, the refereeing is usually always quality and your opponent is always quality.
“You can’t beat it.”