College Sports

Manchester Cup kicks off Saturday

There are those who'll say there's no pressure on soccer teams when they take the field for a spring match.

Wins or losses don't count, results have no impact on standings or rankings, jobs aren't on the line, individual statistics are never posted and more times than not, a team's biggest fan might not know how his lads are doing.

There might be the perception that clubs don't bring the same intensity or "A game" to the pitch for what might be deemed a glorified scrimmage.

They'd be wrong.

"As a coach, you want to approach every game you play the same way," Winthrop coach Rich Posipanko said during a break from finalizing plans for Saturday's Manchester Cup. "You want to play your best and you want to win.

"What you try to do in the spring is look at guys who didn't get a lot of playing time last season and see how they react in different situations. You're only allowed five playing dates, so every date is important."

The Eagles are 4-0 so far and have allowed just one goal, in a 4-1 win over Queens. Winthrop blanked Davidson, Clemson and Pass4, a touring team from England.

"You want to play your best every time you play," goalkeeper Patrick Mitrovich said. "We played Clemson in Clemson. We'll play them again next season and we wanted to send a message. I'm sure they wanted to send a message. That was more like a regular-season game.

"When you play a team that you'll never see again, then everybody might be a little more relaxed. But you still play your best and you try to win."

Asked about what kind of intensity fans can expect in Saturday's matchup against College of Charleston at 12:30 p.m. and a 5:30 p.m. contest with UNC Wilmington, Mitrovich replied similarly.

"I know it will be more like a regular-season game because we beat them at their place last season," he said.

Senior midfielder Sean Weron hammered home a rebound with 1:19 left in the first overtime to lead Winthrop to a 2-1 victory over the Cougars during the 2007 season.

"Against teams like Clemson, College of Charleston or other teams you know you'll be playing at some point, it's a mental thing," Mitrovich said. "Both teams are trying to say, 'We're here to play and we're going to give you a game.'''

According to Mitrovich, a two-time All-Big South Conference first-team selection and the 2005 BSC Freshman of the Year, spring games have gone a long way toward wiping away the bitter taste left by a disappointing 2007 campaign.

The Eagles, fresh off the 2006 BSC championship, a trip to the NCAA tournament and fielding a veteran roster including 2006 BSC Player of the Year Saidi Isaac, were the No. 1 pick on 13 of 14 ballots in the preseason poll.

But Winthrop never lived up to the preseason billing, finishing 11-4-3 and losing to Liberty at home in the semifinals of the BSC tournament.

"Last year was very disappointing," Mitrovich said. "We're trying to learn from what happened.

"We can already see that this team is meshing and chemistry is better than last year. It reminds me of 2006 when we won the championship. We're all looking forward to next season."

Mitrovich is hoping this year's Manchester Cup will be as well received as the first one.

"I remember it was a beautiful day and more fans than anyone expected came out," he said. "I know we had something like 3,000 out there. It was a great atmosphere for soccer and the competition was awesome."

Posipanko said that serious soccer fans will have numerous excellent matchups to choose from during the day.

"It's a high-level tournament," Posipanko said. "All the teams have been ranked regionally over the last two years. And, every game last year was close. It's going to be exciting."

• NOTE: Posipanko announced that Northwestern, Fort Mill, Rock Hill and South Pointe will play in the 2009 Manchester Cup. This year the Trojans, Yellow Jackets, Dorman and Spartanburg are playing.

Northwestern, No. 4 in the latest state rankings, takes on the sixth-ranked Cavaliers at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Carlisle Field.

Manchester Cup schedule

b>Saturday

At Manchester Meadows

(2007 record in parenthesis)

Session I

Carlisle Field

Noon -- South Carolina (11-6-2) vs. Old Dominion (14-7-3)

1:45 p.m. -- Clemson (7-11-1) vs. UNC Greensboro (11-8-2)

Brannan Field

10:45 a.m. -- UNC Wilmington (4-13-1) vs. Charlotte Eagles (11-7-2)

12:30 p.m. -- Winthrop (11-4-3) vs. College of Charleston (13-5-1)

2:15 p.m. -- Kentucky (7-10-2) vs. Furman (19-4)

Session II

Carlisle Field

3:30 p.m. -- Northwestern vs. Dorman

Brannan Field

4 p.m. -- Fort Mill vs. Spartanburg

Session III

Carlisle Field

5:30 p.m. -- Winthrop vs. UNC Wilmington

7:15 p.m. -- College of Charleston vs. Kentucky

8:45 p.m. -- Furman vs. Charlotte Eagles

Brannan Field

6 p.m. -- UNC Greensboro vs. South Carolina

7:45 p.m. -- Old Dominion vs. Clemson

• Tickets: $12 for adult tournament pass. $7 for children under 12 and students with a valid ID. Group rate of $10 a person for 10 or more and $5 for children and students.

Ticket stub can also be redeemed at the Charlotte Eagles game against the Richmond Kickers at 7 p.m. on April 25 at a discount price of $6 for adults and $4 youth. Ticket stub must be presented to get discount price.

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