A big congratulations to all those who helped put on the 2012 NCAA Division II Soccer National Championships at Blanchard Woods Park.
It’s a blanket pat on the back as the event was about a year and a half in the planning and involved many different agencies and individuals.
Kudos as well to Peach Belt commissioner David Brunk and his staff and volunteers who had a key role from start to finish.
I got to the field early for the championship rounds and I thought it looked outstanding. The decision to keep groups off the grass for six months was wise, especially when presenting the venue to groups from across the country.
From a reporter’s standpoint, it was a joy to walk into the mobile press box and have stats and rosters waiting, as well as having stats provided during and after the games. It’s been a long time, since I covered the Baltimore Orioles’ Double-A affiliate Bowie Baysox, that I was taken care of that well.
Getting the teams in and playing the semifinals and the finals was a weeklong event. While the goal was to decide who would become the men’s and women’s national champion, the NCAA, Peach Belt Conference and Columbia County teamed up to ensure it was about more than just soccer.
One night, student-athletes from the eight participating schools got to spend three hours at Adventure Crossing, taking advantage of everything the facility had to offer free of charge.
It was a time to relax and get away from soccer for a while, as well as an opportunity to interact with players from the other squads.
“We crushed the Grand Valley girls in laser tag,” said Bryan Winnega, a senior center-midfielder from Saginaw Valley State University.
I caught up with Winnega and a few of his teammates, along with members of the University of California San Diego, the University of West Florida and Lynn University, at the Faith Food Factory in Augusta.
They were spending an hour there as part of a volunteer effort to sort food products for distribution centers.
Kelcie Brodsky, the starting goalie for UC San Diego, summed up her week’s experience the day before she played for the women’s national championship.
“It’s been fun, pretty cool,” said Brodsky. “We went to the adventure place and the banquet. Everyone has been real nice. It’s cool meeting others. The guys from Lynn have cool accents.”
She also liked that she had the chance to give back.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “It’s a good feeling knowing we’re helping the community.”
Dennis Helsel, the Chowan University Athletic Director and NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer Committee chair thought the volunteer opportunity was important.
“This is great,” Helsel said. “The student-athletes are having fun and they’re taking an hour out of their life to help somebody.”
I imagine while it will be hard to top this year’s experience, the entities involved will give it their best shot next year.