A group of teenage soccer players from the Capital Region is looking to add to an impressive resume this weekend.
The Black Watch Premier Midlothians are one of 16 teams playing in the U.S. Youth Soccer Region I Boy’s U17 Championships in Pennsylvania, with the winner earning a trip to the national finals in Phoenix later this month.
Black Watch, the bulk of its roster from Suburban Council teams, qualified by winning the State Cup in early June.
“It’s a big accomplishment, because it’s rare that a team north of New York City wins the State Cup,” said Steve Freeman, the Midlothians head coach and Black Watch Director of Programming. “The kids are excited about playing in the Region I tournament. They’ve had success at a number of tournaments, and hopefully, we can get some good results this weekend and qualify for the nationals.”
The majority of the team has been a unit at the club level throughout the players’ teen years.
“This group has been together since the under-13 level, and I’d say 65 percent of them since under-10,” said Freeman. “They’re a terrific group, on and off the field.”
Goalkeeper Evan Mendez of Ballston Spa, Monil Patel of Niskayuna, Luke Scarchilli of Shaker, Morgan Smith of Saratoga Springs, Colonie High School’s Massimo Smiroldo and Bethlehem’s Zach Rockmore were all Suburban Council first-team all-star picks last fall. Kyle Reilly was a first-team Big 10 choice, playing at LaSalle.
Smith and Saratoga teammate Eli Sterngass played against Mendez in last fall’s Section II Class AA championship game.
“All but one of the players on this team are juniors in high school,” said Freeman, who is assisted by Jeff Rockmore and Skidmore College men’s coach Ron McEachen. “A couple of them have already made college commitments.”
Adam Barlow and Shane Breznak (Shenendehowa), Noah Rhynhart (Doane Stuart School), Nick Shamlian (Shaker), Todd Lawson (Colonie), Sam Keenan and Tom Benedetto (Queensbury) and Ryan Hanehan (South Glens Falls) are also on the team.
The Midlothians roared through the State Cup brackets, getting to the final by winning their quarterfinal and semifinal matches by a 13-1 aggregate.
Rockmore and Noah Rhynhart scored in regulation in the championship game, with Rhynhart — who recently finished his junior year at Doane Stuart School — scoring in overtime to finish a 3-2 win over Auburndale (Queens).
This season has also seen the team go 2-0-1 in the Elite Division of the Jefferson Cup, place third at the Disney Showcase and compile a 3-2-1 record at the CASL Showcase in Raleigh, N.C. The group also has a 6-0-0 record in the Super-Y League, which includes a pair of wins in Maine on Tuesday.
“To do the amount of traveling we do, and to train two or three days a week, says a lot about the commitment of the players and their parents,” said Freeman.
Black Watch, the Eastern New York champion, is in a pool with the West Virginia Elite Titans, Beachside (Conn.) and Penn (Pa.) Fusion Celtic. The Midlothians open play today at 3 against Penn Fusion, draws Beachside on Saturday and wraps up pool play Sunday against West Virginia.
The winner from each pool moves to Monday’s semifinals, with the championship game set for Tuesday morning.
Region I comprises club teams from 15 state associations along the East Coast.
Two area teams — the Alleycats Redcats and Saratoga Blue United — are competing in the girls U12 8v8 event. The Redcats beat Saratoga in the State Cup final, with Saratoga earning a wild card to the Region I tournament.