The coaches have been their before, even if their players have not.
Poland’s Tom Basel and Greg Haver will take their squads on the road for regional play Saturday as the Tornadoes enter the state playoffs as Section III’s boys’ and girls’ champions for Class D.
Haver’s undefeated Poland boys head to Norwich High School to meet Section IV champion Marathon at 11 a.m. Saturday. Basel’s girls play at 3 p.m. — following Sauquoit Valley’s Class C regional — against Franklin of Section IV at Fulton’s G. Ray Bodley High School. That is about an 85-mile trip for hustling supporters who want to pull off a doubleheader Saturday.
While the girls have had a week off to prepare for their match, the boys needed a 4-0 win Wednesday against Old Forge in the unifying match of a split Class D sectional field to join their schoolmates in the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs. Marathon, the Tornadoes’ opponent, has also been waiting to play since Nov. 3.
“I actually like it,” Haver said of the quick turnaround. “It’s tough waiting around, even after winning the D-1 title to play the overall D game. You’re used to playing that way and I’d just as son play sooner.”
Adding to the boys’ circumstances was a last-minute change of venue. Their regional was to to have been played at the Wright National Soccer Campus but was moved about 10 miles west because of the field conditions in Oneonta.
The boys will be back on grass for their match while the girls once again play on turf, a potential advantage, according to their coach.
“We have a bit of an advantage because we do play on a lot of turf,” Basel said, “and out style of play lends well to it.”
In addition to playing their last two sectional matches on synthetic surfaces, the Tornadoes have played on turf during indoor soccer in the winter and their summer league at Herkimer County Community College. They have also been able to arrange practice time at HCCC and SUNYIT.
Next up is the adjustment to unfamiliar opponents.
“They’re no different than you,” Haver said. “They’re just from a different section and they won. We’ll concentrate on what we do well and see what happens. They don’t know any more about you than you know about them.”
Basel’s game plan follows the same line of thinking.
“We just want to settle down and get into our style of play quickly,” he said.
Saturday’s winners advance to Final Four play Nov. 17 and 18 which, once again, would send Poland’s players and supporters in different directions. The girls’ semifinals and finals will be played at SUNY-Cortland while the boys head to Middletown.