Patrick Soccer Team Wins Prestigious Defender’s Cup
By 1st Lt. Josh Tischler, Space and Missile Systems Center
/ Published September 16, 2011
PATRICK AFB, Fla. -- Over Labor Day weekend the Patrick Air Force Base varsity soccer program became reigning champions of the prestigious Air Force soccer tournament known as the Defender's Cup.
The Defender's Cup is a joint annual soccer tournament where bases from all over the country compete for bragging rights and to challenge themselves at a level of play that far transcends the local leagues and intramurals. In fact, the level of play is high enough to draw recruiters from the All-Air Force soccer team. This year, the event hosted 20 bases, and it was Patrick Air Force Base that ended up on top.
The event spanned three days with PAFB playing seven games and over eight hours of rigorous game time. On day one Patrick AFB dispatched Holloman AFB, Davis-Monthan AFB, and event host Lackland AFB. With the flawless performance in the round robin and with no goals against, Patrick AFB found itself as the second seed behind the perennial soccer giants of Eglin AFB for the start of the single elimination tournament. On day two, the team made short work of Barksdale AFB in a 4-0 victory. In the quarterfinals, PAFB struggled to get ahead against Hurlbert Field's solid defense in the second game of the day. It wasn't until after regulation time that midfielder Capt. Damon Wong found a seam in the defensive line and buried a stunning goal for a 1-0 win.
Day three featured the semifinal and final games of the last remaining four teams in the competition. Patrick AFB, Lackland AFB and Holloman AFB showed great success advancing through the playoff bracket, but the real surprise was Columbus AFB who dismantled tournament favorite Eglin AFB with a 3-0 win. Patrick AFB was pitted against Lackland AFB in the semifinals, and they would not go down again without a fight. Patrick AFB took a 2-0 lead in the first half, but Lackland AFB came storming back with a goal from a penalty kick that threatened the Patrick lead with minutes remaining. Patrick held the 2-1 lead for the remaining time and earned a spot in the final.
The biggest challenge was yet to come as Patrick prepared to face Columbus AFB. Despite having only three subs available and a number of injured players against Colombus' full bench of fresh players, Patrick AFB came out guns blazing with several attempts on goal before Capt. David Schill of the 45th Launch Group broke the deadlock in the 40th minute with a brilliant touch around a defender followed by a well placed shot past the diving keeper.
Although in the lead, Patrick AFB was far from finished. During the entire second half, Patrick AFB endured an onslaught of attacks from Columbus AFB. Fresh substitutions poured from the Columbus bench while Patrick AFB struggled to hang on. The final defense became even more frantic with less than 10 minutes left to play, when Patrick goal scorer and team organizer Captain Schill collided with a Columbus player and was whisked away to the Brooke Army Medical Center with a dislocated shoulder.
Finally, the whistle blew and Patrick AFB was declared the champions. It would take several minutes for the reality of the accomplishment to sink in, but by the trophy ceremony after the game, the team's players had recovered and the celebration began.
Although the entire team performed well together, there were several standout players for Patrick AFB. Goalkeeper Airman 1st Class Jon Olson earned special honors from the tournament organizers and was recognized as the "Top Defender." Airman Olson allowed no goals against the entire time he was in the net and made several outstanding saves. Other outstanding performances came from Captain Schill (4 goals) and 1st Lt. Jason Belvill with his dominant defense in the back line.
As anyone in the Air Force knows, a team can't win with only individual performances.
"Team shape was the key to our success at Defender's Cup," said Captain Schill. "On offense, we attacked together, with speed, aggression, and purpose. On defense, we created an impenetrable block with the individual pieces looking after and supporting each other. Our offensive and defensive team shape held together every game, independent of which eleven players were on the field, and was the distinguishing feature separating us as the champions."
This view of the importance of team involvement resonated well with the Patrick AFB soccer team coach, Staff Sgt. Pete Oliveri.
"Everyone came together as a team and I couldn't have been more proud of how we played together," said Sergeant Oliveri. "All of the hard work, dedication, aches and pains we all went through this year came together to prepare us for this tournament."
The Defender's Cup trophy will be on display in the Patrick AFB Fitness Center.
The team is always looking for new players, both experienced and new to the sport. If you are interested in participating, contact Sergeant Oliveri at Peter.Oliveri@patrick.af.mil or Lieutenant Tischler at Joshua.Tischler@patrick.af.mil.