AUBURN — For some players, soccer season never ends. They just switch fields.

After winning the Class C state championship and capping off a perfect season, Jack Erickson and Garrett Darnell didn’t have long to savor the St. Dom’s victory over Fort Kent. That’s because the two Saints are part of a U17 team that will be competing in the Super Y North American finals next week in Tampa, Florida.

“We had one day off and then we practiced Monday,” said Erickson. “We’re used to it. It’s his fourth year and my third year of high school. We’re used to ending the high school season and then going right to other teams. We’re used to that quick transition.”

They’re both part of the MPS Portland Phoenix team that will be among 16 teams from the United States and Canada. The tournament runs from November 20 through the 25th. With the emotions still running high from the state championship, both are trying to shift gears and prepare themselves for a tourney that features some of the best young talent in the country in their age group.

“I’ve got that in my mind still,” said Darnell of the state championship win. “Knowing that we just won the states, there’s a couple of other guys on the team from Scarborough and Falmouth that also won states. We’re all kind of still in the high school celebration, but I think once the tournament comes around, it will be different.”

The two St. Dom’s teammates have been playing together since Darnell was in first grade and Erickson was in kindergarten. They’ve experienced plenty as teammates during their soccer careers. They played together on MCU teams from U11 to U18 and won the U12 regional championship in Rhode Island. The played together in an MPS tourney in Tampa and were MCU state runners-up at U13, U14, U15 and U17. They won two state crowns at St. Dom’s. This tournament is another addition to a pair of already impressive soccer resumes.

The Super Y-League North American Finals is regarded as one of the top youth
soccer event in North America. The five-day event features over 130 youth soccer teams from U13 to U17 for both boys and girls. Teams qualify from their respective regions. The tournament will include over 5,000 players, parents and spectators. The finals last year had teams from Vancouver to Miami with teams representing the top professional clubs in the nation, like Major League Soccer’s DC United and Red Bull New York.

“It’s an honor, but we’ve worked hard for it,” said Erickson, who was a striker for the Saints and had two goals in the state title win.

The Phoenix features players primarily from the Greater Portland area. There are also some from Waterville. They played a full schedule last summer and have been practicing regularly during the high school season on Sunday’s. After cruising through much of the St. Dom’s regular season schedule, the Phoenix are expecting to see a greater challenge in Tampa.

“It’s going to be a whole other level,” said Darnell, who has been a stellar defender and moved to midfield this season. “It’s going to be even higher than the teams we played this summer. It’s going to be all the best teams that they can put together.”

Darnell says he’s already noticed improvement among players on the Phoenix. The high school season has prepped the team well and now the Phoenix hope to make a showing in Florida. The team has four guaranteed games and are the second-seeded team out of New England.

“We have some tough games,” said Erickson. “If we can get some wins and get some good results, that would be nice. You like to go in thinking you’ll win every game, but I wouldn’t say that’s an expectation. It may be a goal. Our expectation is to play some good soccer and hope to do well.”

Maine teams often struggle to compete against national competition, but there have been teams that make a splash on the national scene.

“Maine not really known as a powerhouse but there are pockets of kids around,” said Erickson. “It’s a matter of finding them and putting them together. There is good soccer in Maine. You just have to find it.”

This tournament provides players a look by numerous college coaches. That doesn’t make this event as significant for Darnell, a senior who has his college choices narrowed to a few. Erickson could draw some attention with his senior year ahead of him.

“For me, it doesn’t rank very high,” said Darnell. “Most of us have already decided where we’re going or hope to be going, but for Jack it’s pretty important, being only a junior. Coaches will probably look at that and talk to him.”

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