PA boys looking for first Corporate Cup soccer win

Bob Parana - Staff Writer

When the Pennsylvania boys take to the pitch Sunday afternoon at Olean’s Bradner Stadium they’ll be looking for their first win over New York in the fourth NY/PA Corporate Cup Soccer Showcase. It’s something head coach T.J. Weaver has intently focused on.

“We’ve been in the past games but this year I think we have a good chance to get that first win. We have a good squad and the kids seem to be gelling together real well,” said the head coach of the Elk County Catholic Crusaders.

New York won 1-0 in 2017, 2-1 in 2018, and 4-2 last year when the game was held in May at the University of Pitt Bradford. The game includes the top players from the Keystone and Empire states. Unlike other high school all-star games, underclassmen are eligible to play. The boys’ game will start at 4 p.m. and will be followed by the girls’ all-star game at 6:30 p.m. The PA gals will be looking for a second straight win. They won 1-0 last year after losing 4-2 in 2018. There was no girls contest in 2017.

Weaver’s roster includes two local 2020 graduates Clay Zilkofski of Johnsonburg and Mason Feikls of Kane who will be making his second straight appearance. Josh Greville, who will be entering his junior year, was a Wolves teammate of Feikls. Vinicius Nunes, who will be entering his senior year at St. Marys and will also be making a second straight appearance.

The clash for the Corporate Cup was originally scheduled for May 17 at the University of Pitt-Bradford but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers Kris Linderman and Dave Talbot kept hopes alive and patience paid off when it was confirmed they could play the game in Olean where it was held in 2017.

Weaver couldn’t say enough about Linderman and Talbott, who are from Olean. “Wow, the way they put this together and the dedication they have is amazing. They never at one time thought we wouldn’t be playing these games. From day one they told me we were going to play sometime during the summer. With what was going on (with COVID) it looked tough but they kept saying believe in the system and we did and here we are four days away,” the coach said before Wednesday night’s practice in Kersey.

Weaver who was an assistant last year for head coach Rich Esposito will be joined by his ECC assistant Alex O’Neil, Phil Esposito from DuBois Central Catholic, Jack Darling of Warren, Aaron Clark of Port Allegany-Smethport, and Warren’s Denny Flatt.

The former Slippery Rock University player was excited when the call came saying things were a go. “I think the coaches were more thrilled than the kids coming into this. They had been playing and keeping in shape so I think they were ready to go. As coaches, we’re excited to get back on the field and get the flow back. Not only for this but our high school seasons that are coming up.” said Weaver.

As for the condition of his players, the PA coach feels things are improving daily. “Of course being off for so long not playing they were in shape but not game speed. That’s what we’re working on at practice and things are going well,” he said pointing out he loves how his players are approaching things. “These kids have been coming with energy and all the things needed for safety. They're following all the things that we need to do to keep everyone protected [against COVID]. Of course with all the safety measures in place, it’s going to make things more challenging but like everything, it’s something you have to overcome. We have a good plan in place and they're doing everything we ask which is going to make Sunday fun.”

All necessary COVID health and safety measures have been followed at practice will be taken on game day. Each participant is allowed to bring two guests. Among other precautions are face-covering/masks required when closer than six feet to any person and physical distancing will apply for everyone not including the players.

Weaver, his players, and coaches are determined to get PA’s first win. While not wanting to answer specifics on his team’s game plan he talked about his approach. “The biggest thing is to go out and have fun but work as a group. Play to your strength. Don’t play to the other team’s strength. Let the game come to you,” he said.

For the Pennsylvania girls, 2020 Elk County Catholic graduate Olivia Sorg will be making a third-straight appearance as is St. Marys graduates Lauren Eckert, Kaylee Muccio, and Britney Shaw and Kayla Johnson who will be entering her senior year. Victoria Hallberg a 2020 Kane High graduate will be playing in her second straight game. Bradford’s Warren Shaw will coach the team. His staff includes Samantha Zimmerman of the Lady Dutch, Bradford assistants Jim Warnick and A.J. Lucas, David Britten of Brockway, and Jeremy Bickling of Warren.

You can stay up-to-date on the games and events on the Facebook page – Mazza-the-Corporate Cup which will also be live streaming the games.

2020 PA Corporate Cup Soccer Showcase Roster

Johnsonburg – Clay Zilkofski, Kane – Mason Feikls, Josh Greville, St. Marys Vinicius Nunes; Bradford – Colton Swanson, Evan Schmidt, Matt Franz Ayron Hart, Isaiah Pingie, Brennan Grady, Ian Grady, Ryan Miller, DuBois – Zach Farrell, Justin Kalgren; Brockway – Jared Marchiori, Noah Bash, Warren – John Page, Ryon Flatt, Zane Anderson, Wesley Kiehl, Ian Darling, Jack Darling, Port Allegany-Smethport – Simon Burleson, AJ Edgell, Curwensville - Jacob Mullins.