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St. John’s Jesuit graduate Ryan Peterson scored two of the biggest goals of his life to help lead a local soccer team to a season of unexpected success.
Peterson was an integral part of the Pacesetter/Aston Villa Super 20 soccer team that reached a national championship game in its inaugural season.
Peterson, who plays at the University of Dayton, helped the team qualify for the Super-20 League national championships with his team’s lone goal in a key 1-0 regular season win.
The victory helped the Sylvania-based team of college players ages 17 to 20 earn a berth in the Super-20 league tournament last week in Bradenton, Fla. With a roster that features former local high school standouts, the Pacesetter team was one of just 16 teams to qualify.
Peterson followed that up with the game-winning goal in Pacesetter’s 2-0 win against a Texas team last Friday. The victory sent the team into the semifinals.
“I’m just appreciative that I got to play with these players,” Peterson said. “For me, I’m homegrown out of Sylvania so it was a great feeling personally.”
The Pacesetter team eventually lost 2-0 to the Michigan Force Football Club in the championship game on Sunday.
But Jimmy Walker, the team’s founder, said the club went on “a fantastic ride,” beating quality teams throughout the regular season and postseason.
“Not bad for a first-year franchise. There is a heck of a lot to build on,” Walker said.
Peterson said he was honored to be selected to play on the team, which featured players from Brazil, England, Morocco, and Mexico.
“This was more than just local players, we had some of the best players from the Midwest and Internationally,” Peterson said. “I knew we had the talent and skill.”
The team struggled to score goals early in the regular season with differing styles not meshing.
“The first couple of training sessions were rough, and we weren’t clicking,” Peterson said. “Then we started clicking, and we knew if we made the tournament we could do good things.”
Team goalkeeper Michael Soderlund — a native of Boise, Idaho, who plays at Indiana University — had three shutouts during the tournament.
Pacesetter beat teams from New Jersey, Texas, and Missouri to reach the final.
The roster included Peterson’s fellow St. John’s graduates Matt Essig (Duquesne University), Evan Lee (Ohio Wesleyan), Jake Martin (Owens), and Josh McCoy (Ohio Northern).
Other locals included Northview’s Michael McPeek (Tiffin), St. Francis’ Ashton Winkler (Urbana), and Perrysburg’s James Roberts (UC Colorado Springs) and Jaime Gonzalez (Ohio State University).
“Coming into the season obviously we knew had good players,” Peterson said. “But to make it all the way to the finals as a first-year program is incredible.”
A special camp is being held next week in Whitehouse for young soccer players who aspire to one day play for an elite travel team.
A “British Soccer Camp” is being hosted by the Anthony Wayne United Soccer Club next Monday through Friday. The camp will feature English coaches who will teach the fundamentals of the sport.
The camp is open to boys and girls ages 7 to 14. This is the third year that the AW soccer club has hosted the event.
“It’s been well received by both the parents and the players,” said Brian Billings, the club’s director of coaching. “They bring over coaches from England. They come over and work on fundamentals with games and activities to improve skill level.”
The camp is presented by Challenger Sports, which will hold more than 3,700 camps this summer.
The camp is being held at Blue Creek Fields in Whitehouse.
For more information go to awsoccer.org.