University School wins 3A Soccer Title
University School Soccer Coach Salomon Kidane liked to pass along some words of wisdom to his young soccer squad.
One came from a former coach in Sweden, who told Kidane a long time ago that the hardest way to play the game is to play it simple. So Kidane reminded his players that the simpler you play, the better you will be.
That not only applied to the individual, but also to Kidane’s system and style. It’s that simple team concept that helped lead University School to the 3A State Championship.
At the core of Kidane’s touch-n-go system is when you see your teammate, pass him the ball. That means if one of his players gets the ball, he should play it to the next guy that he can see. And so on and so on and so on.
And like his old Swedish coach once said, that is easier said than done.
Kidane lost 12 players from a year ago, and played this season with a relatively young team that lacked depth. While some public schools may carry upwards of 30 players, Kidane roster only reached 20, of which only 12 played heavy minutes.
The majority of those 12 players were sophomores, who spent their freshman year on the bench sitting and learning. According to Kidane, it was the best thing that could’ve happened in preparation for this season.
But, in Tampa, at the State Championships, it was three seniors who stood out.
They were midfielder Nick Perea, defenseman Oliver Katz and midfielder Simon Rojas. Kidane was proud of Perea for his growth and maturity and leadership as the captain of the team. Perea is being heavily recruited by schools like Syracuse and UConn, and Kidane thinks the best is still to come.
Katz had a “tremendous tournament” and probably played “the best couple of weeks” since being in the program. As a defender, Katz anchored the backline, and was absolutely phenomenal. Rojas, from his midfield position, was constantly taking the ball away, or as Kidane told me in his Swing-lish, Rojas “broke down the offensive players”.
In the State semi-finals, University defeated Bolles 4-1. U-School played a brilliant first half according to their coach, who is generally very critical and not charitable with the compliments. University school had a 3-0 lead at the half, took a 4-0 lead in the 2nd half after a Perea free kick, and won the match by three goals.
The matchup in the Finals with Lake Highland Prep in Orlando was a matchup of two distinct styles.
Speed vs. Size.
Lake Highland Prep wanted to hit long balls into the offensive zone and use their size and strength to their advantage. University School used their skill and technical ability to pass the ball, possess the ball and keep it away from the opposition. According to Kidane, his team had the ball 80% of the game.
Nonetheless, the game cam down to penalty kicks. And the game winning kick came from none other than the goalkeeper, who originally did not want to take the kick.
But Kidane knew better. With an inexperienced and young bench, he knew Joseph Ghitis was a good striker and would give his team a great chance to close out the game.
And more importantly the championship.
Ghitis delivered Kidane and University School the school’s 1st championship since 1972.
“I was very, very happy for the school,” said Kidane. “I was thrilled for the kids, who deserved it. They worked so hard.”
Kidane was also quick to applaud the administration, and headmaster Dr. Chernak for having a vision to complement University School’s tremendous academic reputation with an athletic department to match.
Dr. Chernak had a vision, and a plan.
So did Kidane.
To win a Championship.
So simple, right?
As his old Swedish coach once said, easier said than done.