Preston Lodge took two teams to Las Vegas to compete in the Mayors Cup
Preston Lodge High School travelled to Las Vegas for the second time, this time taking two teams which consisted of 25 pupils and 5 staff.
Departing through London to Vegas on the Wednesday 14 February the teams got straight into the matches on the Thursday night. The U16s played a team from Peru, which had four national players in their squad. After a shaky start losing a goal in the first 30 seconds the boys reacted well and settled into the match winning the game 5-3. Straight after this match the U17s played a team from the US Virgin Islands. The game was played in good spirts with PL coming out 4-0 winners. A mention must go to Lewis Fitzpatrick, Ewan Ford and Ben Jenkinson who played in both matches due to illness of other players.
The Friday was a rest day which allowed the group sometime shopping before visiting Fremont Street in old Vegas. Some of the group were brave enough to go on the zipline across the old town. However with lots of entertainment everyone enjoyed their experience before the matches started.
The U17s were first up against CV Aztecs on the Saturday with both PL teams playing two games on the Saturday. With the older squad having only 12 players we welcomed back Ryan Robertson and Ellis Grieve from illness. The boys took a 1-0 lead through Ajay Kirkpatrick and worked hard as a team to keep a tight lead. Aztecs scored a goal just before half time to make it 1-1. With both teams having chances in the second half the game could have went either way. However a draw was a fair result for both teams. The coaches and parents from Aztecs were full of praise for our boys and coaching staff which helped put the team in the right direction for the remainder of the games. Alex Williamson played the bagpipes before the games which helped a warm welcome for the boys for all the teams they played.
The U16s played Celtic Rangers (strangely) from Utah in their first match. Again the game was close with both teams playing good football the game was good to watch. Ben Tracey scored the opening goal for Preston Lodge. Again the team were pulled back to make it 1-1. Unfortunately late on the boys conceded a second goal to lose the game 1-0. This made the remainder of the two games clear that the boys had to win both games to progress. The boys were a bit disheartened but had played well in the match.
The next fixtures for both the U16s and U17s were against Las Vegas Downtown team. The U17s played first and knew a win would progress them to the quarter final. Preston Lodge controlled the game from start to finish with some good possession play. An excellent goal from Alistair Maclachlan from 35 yards out which dipped over the goalkeeper early in the first half settled the game. The Las Vegas goalkeeper was kept busy with chances from Ellis Grieve and Kieran Douglas being well saved to keep the match to a 1-0 scoreline
The U16s second match was at night and the temperatures helped Preston Lodge as it was a lot cooler than the 20 degree heat they played in during the afternoon matches. The boys got off to a great start and saw them take an early lead in the game which they started to control. The team were on the constant attack and seem them take a comfortable lead into half time. The team ran out comfortable winners winning the game 11-0 with goals from Ben Tracey x 3, Jack Main, Jack Scott, Finn Higgins, Cameron MacDiarmid, Lewis Fitzpatrick x 2, Aodhan Heaney plus one own goals This put the team in good spirts with a winner takes all last group game against Santa Clara YSL Lions on the Sunday to progress to the semi-finals. On the Sunday the boys were refreshed and in good spirts before the match. On the Sunday the weather had changed again with increase in temperature but also an increase in the wind. The win was disadvantage to Preston Lodge in the first half and a big kick-out from the goalkeeper caught Preston Lodge off guard to go 1-0. Santa Clara then picked a quick second and third goal up with wind behind their backs. Half time came and Preston Lodge was a lot better with the wind behind their back. A couple of chances which could have been taken would have made the game more interesting in the last ten minutes. The boys tried their hardest to get back into the game but could not pull it back. The U16s had done themselves and the school proud scoring 17 goals and conceding 8 goals.
The quarter final for the U17s was played straight after the U16s match with the boys knowing that only a win would keep the Preston Lodge teams in the competition. Again with the wind the team chose to play against the wind in the first half and kept the ball well against a team who were more physical. Nebraska took the lead 1-0 from a set piece and scored a second from outside the box just before half time. Despite being 2-0 down at half time the team had more possession and were positive about the second half. Preston Lodge continued to attack and chances from Ellis Grieve and Alex Williamson were saved well by Nebraska. In continuing to attack unfortunately Preston Lodge were caught on counter attack and lost the third goal two minutes before time.
Both teams were disappointed to go out however they made the school, coaches and parents proud of their effort and keeping up the Preston Lodge spirit that teams recognised two years ago. As a team we were stopped by many other teams, coaches and parents to congratulate us on our effort and the experience we brought to the tournament.
The final two days saw the teams go to the stratosphere, more shopping, a day on the Las Vegas strip and the Linq.
A massive thank you must go to the adults who took their time out to help the teams. John Hall, Shug Douglas, Kieran Cooke and Julia Robertson. Also Steven Ford, a parent who attended matches and was a great help cheering on the teams.