Gallery by Heather Belcher
The sign in front of the Greenbrier East cheering section read, “Adam Seams’ biggest FANS!!”
Friday morning the Seams entourage had plenty to cheer about at the Class AAA Boys State Soccer Tournament.
Playing a big part in both goals scored by Greenbrier East, Seams led the Spartans to a 2-1 win over Wheeling Park to secure a berth in the championship game at Paul Cline Stadium.
“I’m speechless. This feels really good. I have been through a lot the past four years and I have been through a lot since I was little. This has been a dream. Today we got it done, but we have another game. It’s the next assignment. We are moving on.”
The tightly contested match was a tale of two halves. The Patriots controlled the first half and the Spartans took control in the second half.
Greenbrier East head coach Lucas Lemine made some changes at the break, while Park head coach Mario Julian elected to stay the course from the first half with the match tied at 1-1.
“It seemed like in the first half we won the midfield, got some attacks and had a lot of the possession,” Julian said. “The second half it flipped. I don’t know what the factors were in that. Maybe they were a little anxious in the first half and they needed that halftime to settle down. Our plan coming out of the half was to keep doing the same thing. We didn’t think we needed to change much because we were possessing the ball and getting shots. We thought we had good control of our game and the way we were playing. Sports are funny and that happens quite a bit at every level.”
Lemine decided on a formation change, but the biggest adjustment came when Seams moved up top from the back line and Chase Mizia moved to a back line defender.
“I could tell Chase was getting a little winded, so I told him lets just change positions for like three minutes. That three minutes turned into about 17 or 20 minutes,” Seams explained. “I decided we would give them a new look. Every time I was coming up for corners they were double-teaming me. I thought maybe if we gave them a different look, it would mix it up a little bit.”
In the 77th minute, the move paid huge dividends when Seams maneuvered through two defenders and hit a shot with his left foot inside the far post for a 2-1 lead which set off a wild, confetti filled celebration in the Greenbrier East cheering section.
“I prefer to shoot a shot as I am moving with my left foot. That has been my signature goal this season and I have maybe five,” Seams said. “I just pass it in to the bottom right, but not to hard. It is still indescribable.”
For Seams to move up top, senior Chase Mizia had to be willing to make the move from striker to defender. His sacrifice was not lost on his coach.
“I think you also can’t understate Chase going back and keeping it locked down for us. Tresz (McLeod) is the real deal and Chase being able to make that transition was big for us,” Lemine said. “We talked this week that Adam had to be very disciplined when he did that because of Tresz. Adam didn’t move up the majority of the game because of Tresz. For Chase to be humble enough, knowing he had been the goal scorer all year, and knowing what he needed to do for the team to give Adam his shots and finish it was crucial.”
McLeod entered the game as the top scorer for the Patriots and the main focus of the Spartans’ defense, but the sophomore sensation still caused some heart-stopping moments for the East faithful.
After providing the assist for Wilson Hanna’s first half goal, McLeod rocketed a shot just wide of the far post when Mizia slipped down defending him.
Unseen by most in the crowd, the shot went wide because East keeper, Joe Cochran got enough of the ball to deflect it out of the net.
“Tresz beat the goalie and I didn’t realize (at the time) that (the goalie) tipped it wide. That was a heck of a save there,” Julian said. “It didn’t turn out to be the game saver, but it still, at that time, kept the game even and gave them a chance at the end to win it.”
It wasn’t the first huge postseason save by Cochran who made a game saver on a penalty kick against George Washington in overtime in the regional win.
“It is really hard as a goalkeeper, but I just tried to read his hips. He is a lefty, so it depends on the left or right shots. Lefty’s kind of favor the outside and that is what I thought,” Cochran said. “Unfortunately Chase fell down and (McLeod) had some time and space. He (attempted) to put it in the corner, but I had it read. I got a thumb on it and it barely put it out.”
Cochran recorded five saves on the day and every shot he rejected was a solid try by the Patriots.
“They played GW and GW is great. They have equal players to what Tresz is. They were pretty comfortable with their defense and how they were going to attempt to double-team him,” Julian said. “That has happened a lot to Tresz and Tresz has done a really good job with it. He was really dangerous out there today. He had three or four good scoring chances and the goalie made the saves.”
Mizia’s move to the back line was only part of his contribution of the day. The senior striker gave East the early lead when he was taken down in the box and nailed the ensuing penalty try.
The play started on a big blast from Seams which found its mark with Mizia up top. It was a pass that would have made Tom Brady envious.
“I saw Adam look up and look down and I knew it was coming too me. The ball bounced a little short, but I got in front of the guy and he took me out and I got a (penalty kick),” Mizia said. “I knew I was going to take the PK and I knew I was going to put it in the back of the net.”
Every loss in the state tournament is tough, but this one was particularly tough for Julian who described his team as one of the best he has had in his career.
“I saw two teams battling hard today and neither team wanted to give an inch. It was an even game for 77 minutes, but their best player got behind our (defense) and got a great goal,” Julian said. “You have to give him credit. You have to give credit where credit is due. No shame in the way that we played. We were outstanding and they were equally up to the task.”
The win for Lemine was an emotional one and it showed after the game.
“This is incredible. This one is already hitting me,” Lemine said. “It is emotional especially when I saw my wife. Being a coach’s wife is tough. She has to put up with a lot of crap. We have two young children and she just does it. The support is obviously ridiculous (from the fans). Then there is Brady Thompson who was diagnosed with lung cancer this summer. He was an incoming 9th-grader that didn’t get a chance to play with us this year and he was over there.”
“That was a well-coached team that showed a lot of class,” Lemine went on to say. “They were gracious and humble. I have been trying to meet Mario for like 10 years and play them, but it just never worked out. I can’t say enough about what he does and what he has done with those kids.”
The theme for Greenbrier East has been focusing on the next assignment. That assignment comes Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. at Paul Cline Stadium when the Spartans play Spring Mills for the Class AAA boys state soccer title.
The Cardinals beat Hurricane, 3-0, in their semifinal matchup.