Sports

Northern Aroostook teams take top spots at midcoast soccer tournament

BRUNSWICK, Maine — The Madawaska-based Upstate Soccer Academy captured two team titles at the 2017 Summer Coastal Challenge at Bowdoin College, June 17 and 18.

Upstate Soccer Academy’s Cayden Ala, right, pushes the ball past the Brunswick defense during the 2017 Summer Coastal Challenge tournament at Bowdoin College, June 17 and 18. (Contributed photo)

The group’s U10 and U12 boys were champions in their respective divisions in the tournament. Upstate’s U14 team was winless on the weekend, with one tie.

Dozens of teams from around the region took part in the two-day tournament, which featured age brackets from U9 to U19.

“I’m really proud of all my players with their efforts, teamwork, respect, sportsmanship, leadership and work ethic all weekend,” said Shawn Querze, Upstate’s president, founder, and one of its volunteer coaches.

“Additionally, I am thankful to the coaches for their expertise, leadership and time given to the players,” said Querze, who also is the Madawaska High School varsity boys coach.

The U10 squad’s offense started off the weekend strong with a 7-2 win against Brunswick and a 7-1 drubbing of Gardiner on Saturday. They went on to a 7-0 blanking of Seacoast United in the first playoff round and a 4-2 win against Merrymeeting to wind the title on Sunday.

Upstate’s U12 squad came on strong against Maranacook, with a 6-1 win, followed by a 1-1 tie with Merrymeeting, Saturday. The team got its offense back on track Sunday, though, earning a 6-1 win against Central Maine and then a 4-1 championship victory against Midcoast United.

Upstate Soccer Academy’s Dillon Cyr dribbles the ball up the field during a game at the 2017 Summer Coastal Challenge tournament at Bowdoin College on June 17. (Contributed photo)

“It was an amazing weekend with some really good talent,” said Querze. “The U10 a U12 teams were very fortunate to capitalize on their opportunities. I couldn’t be happier for the kids win or lose.”

“It’s about being active and having fun,” said Vanessa Gagnon, who has three of her four sons in Upstate Academy.

Her boys have been kicking around a soccer ball since they could walk, she said. Her husband, Ben, is one of the volunteer coaches in the academy.

However, playing in tournaments is only “a bonus,” Gagnon said. “They love making new friends and getting together each week.”

The academy draws players from all over northern Maine and Canada. The children get to see peers from other towns and other schools, who they may not meet very often.
“They have similar interests. They go to each others birthday parties and spend time together outside of soccer,” she said. “It’s kind of like a big family.”

There is no fee to take part in the academy, although parents must cover the cost of uniforms and tournament entry fees. Other than that, all the coaches are volunteers, parents and grandparents carpool to games and practices and the school allows the teams the use of playing fields and the gymnasium.

In the winter, Upstate is open to both girls and boys. In the summer, however, Querze has not yet found enough coaches for the girls teams.  

Upstate Soccer Academy players, from left, Carter Gagnon, Max Roy and Aiden Gagnon chat during a break in the action during the 2017 Summer Coastal Challenge at Bowdoin College, June 17 and 18. (Contributed photo)

Querze said coaches in the academy do not keep statistics on individual players, who are encouraged to be creative, while demonstrating teamwork and respect.

“We promote development and risk taking. We encourage the kids to make mistakes so they can learn from them to improve,” said Querze.

Along with regional tournaments, Upstate teams occasionally play friendly matches against other communities.

Upstate’s next tournament will be in Riviere Du Loup, Quebec, July 8 and 9, where the U10 and U12 boys teams will compete. Then all three teams will make the short trip to Edmundston, New Brunswick, for a tournament, Aug. 12 and 13.

The season will conclude when the U10 and U12 boys travel to Moncton, New Brunswick, Aug. 19 and 20.

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