Written by Jonathan Rice
On Saturday, 29th May, Hanova’s Secondary football team participated in the 6th Annual Xi’an International Tournament. The day began with a 7:30am start as representatives from each school drew seeds – which determined each of the teams’ schedules for the day.
The tournament took place at Bodi campus – a “round robin” format through the morning in which each of the four teams played each other once. Hanova’s Heroes were scheduled for 2 games on the XIS grass field and 1 game on Bodi’s turf track field.
Game 1 began a little later than expected at 8:30am – the Heroes were playing on grass against Maple Leaf. As the first half began, Isaiah Smith and Isaac Rice led the team in a dominating 20 minutes. Their chemistry was evident as they moved the ball well, maintained possession and pounded Maple Leaf’s goal with some hard shots. By the half, though, the score was still 0-0. The second half proved to be a much different game. Maple Leaf scored an unexpected goal early on and then began drawing in most of their players into defensive positions. The Heroes fought hard on the unpredictable grass, but couldn’t get the score they needed. The final whistle blew with a 1-0 Maple Leaf win.
Game 2 was scheduled for the Bodi Track field against XIS. Coming off a difficult loss, the Heroes settled into a very competitive game. Early in the first half, Isaiah Smith whipped a throw-in straight at the goal that bounced off an XIS defender and gave Hanova an early 1-0 lead! Both teams had more opportunities to score, but it wasn’t until the very end of the half that XIS put the ball in the net to tie the game. The second half brought just as much competition. Plenty of shots on goal. About midway through, Elijah Smith scored his first goal of the tournament to bring the Heroes into the lead (2-1). The Heroes held this lead until late in the game when a deep shot from XIS found the net. The game ended in a disappointing tie, 2-2.
Game 3 found the Heroes back on the challenging XIS grass field facing the XLIS Blue Dragons. Hanova began with a very strong first half! Vincent Gibbs served a perfect assist to Isaiah Smith who pounded the bouncing ball straight into the right side of the goal. Elijah Smith followed that goal with another just a short time later to put the Heroes up 2-0 by halftime. XLIS played a very strong game. They gained back one of the goals in the second half and proceeded to attack with their offense much of the last 10 minutes of the game. But Noah Smith’s incredible saves and Hanova’s very capable defense led by Isaiah and Vincent pushed Hanova to a 2-1 win.
The “round robin” tournament games determined which teams would go to the Bronze and Gold matches. At the end of the round robin games, Maple Leaf finished with 5 points, Hanova with 4, XIS with 3 and XLIS with 2. This set the stage for Hanova’s final match to play for the tournament championship!
The Gold match began at 1:30pm on the Bodi track field. Our Heroes played an incredible first half! In just a matter of minutes, Elijah Smith scored his third goal of the tournament and the Heroes never looked back the rest of the game! Isaac Rice and Isaiah Smith worked the ball through the middle of the field feeding it to the offense and creating scoring opportunities. Vincent Gibbs had some epic headers sending the ball flying out of our defensive space. James Lee, Ethan Dowdy and Billy Lee played incredible defense, while Minjun Poa and Elijah Smith led the offense to a 3-0 score by halftime! Elijah came through with a “hat-trick” (3 goals) in the championship game! The second half brought appearances from Faith Gibbs, Will Li, Steven Jiang, Albert Kim and Caleb Dowdy in an impressive show of teamwork. As the final whistle blew, a loud cheer went up from Hanova’s players, coaches, parents and fans as the tournament ended. Hanova won the Gold match by a score of 3-1 – and with that win became the 2021 Xi’an International Soccer League & Tournament Champions!
In the final awards ceremony at the end of the day, Hanova’s Heroes were awarded with the Tournament Championship trophy and individual gold medals for each player. But the awards continued with the “Golden Boot” award (for the most tournament goals scored) awarded to Elijah Smith (5 goals) and the “Golden Glove” award (for the most tournament goalie saves) awarded to Noah Smith (27 saves)!
We are proud of the Hanova Heroes for their hard work all season and for this very significant accomplishment as Tournament Champions!