Royal Palm Beach rides 13-game win streak into boys soccer district tournament
Sunday, January 20, 2013
by Jeff Greer
Olympic Heights made Dan Blasky shave his beard.
That was back on Nov. 28. Heights traveled to Royal Palm Beach and beat Blasky's team, ending Blasky's I-won't-shave-until-we-lose run early in the 2012-13 soccer season.
Royal Palm Beach hasn't lost since, but the beard's never coming back.
"They had their chance," said Blasky, laughing.
Never mind the facial hair, though. Royal Palm Beach has won 13 straight games. The Wildcats captured their second consecutive conference championship and start this week's District 14-4A tournament with a new goal in mind: the first district title in program history.
Royal Palm Beach (21-1) doesn't have a regional playoff appearance to its name, either, but this week is the main focus for Blasky's squad. Actually, Tuesday night's game against visiting Lake Worth is the main focus.
"They took (Olympic Heights) for granted; that was an eye opener for them," said Blasky, whose team hadn't lost at home in two seasons. "We don't take anything lightly. I always talk about plus-one. We always want to be plus-one. Now it's the playoffs: We want to be plus-one more game."
What made Royal Palm such a revelation this season? Blasky pointed to a few factors. First, he explained, this group has grown over several seasons. Second, everybody plays everywhere, and the possession-style game Royal Palm plays makes each part interchangeable.
That playing style is all the rage in modern soccer, with Barcelona's tight-knit, almost impossible-to-stop passing and movement changing soccer one game at a time. The Spanish national team carries that swagger, too, passing teams to sleep before striking quickly.
"If a defender goes forward, a midfielder fills his spot," Blasky said. "It doesn't matter where we are on the field."
The road through the postseason will be challenging. Martin County, the top seed in 14-4A's North Division, poses a major threat to Royal Palm's first district title. Sebastian River, in the district just north of 14-4A, is ranked nationally in MaxPreps's rankings and looms in the regional playoffs.
To Blasky, that's getting ahead of things. Tuesday's district opener is the focus. Nothing else. Not facial hair. Not a winning streak. Nothing.
"Plus-one," he said.
Other area squads also have state-title aspirations. Boca Raton (19-2) is nationally ranked, and its only two losses came against out-of-state teams. The Bobcats possess the ball much like Royal Palm and feature Division I talent at almost every position.
American Heritage (17-3-1) is a state contender every season, and a strong showing at the Montverde Academy tournament this month has to be a confidence builder for the Stallions.
Three other small schools have a crown in their sights. King's Academy and Benjamin will have to beat one another to get there. Trinity Christian (16-0) had a perfect season, and the Saints have a chance to run to a Class 1A final.