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7:39 AM Thu, Sept. 20th

8-team soccer tourney<BR>starts in town today

PRESCOTT VALLEY — Shean Hilton and Hugh Bell have the healthiest of coaching relationships, especially when one considers that the two run rival programs that aggressively compete for a Wells Fargo Region championship every season.

But as fledgling teams in the heated arena of Class 4A high school boys' soccer, there comes a point where Prescott and Bradshaw Mountain's cooperation overrides the fire of competition.

Such is the case with the first edition of the appropriately named Alliance Soccer Invitational, an annual eight-team tournament hosted by Prescott High and Bradshaw Mountain High Schools today through Thursday, and by Embry-Riddle Saturday.

Bell, the Bears' coach, said that at the conclusion of last season, in January, he and Hilton, the Badgers' head man, sat down to iron out the specifics of what it would take to bring a well-respected boys' soccer tournament to this area.

The duo generated the idea after witnessing the rigors their players had experienced during a hectic travel schedule. They figured that hosting a tourney would cut down on the number of road games their boys were playing.

"This gives us four more home matches since we only have five to six home matches per year," Hilton said. "These trips take a toll on the boys. I don't think people appreciate how much we travel."

Each of the eight tourney squads is guaranteed four games in this double-bracketed event, with Prescott, Pinnacle, Sinagua, and Flagstaff in the first bracket and Bradshaw, Mingus, Greenway, and Coronado in the other. (See accompanying schedule.)

This tournament will feature two high-profile teams in Pinnacle and Greenway that are ranked in the 4A preseason top 10 — as well as Flagstaff and Sinagua, which have pieced together sturdy programs. Coronado and Mingus agreed to attend the tourney, at least in part, because of its efficient organization.

"We got a late start on this (tournament), but we feel good about the teams that are in this," Bell said.

This year, each of the eight teams paid a $300 invitation charge to compete. At no extra cost, each of the clubs will receive 18 specialized tourney T-shirts for their players.

The $300 fee mostly covers the expense for officials, which Bell said runs in the $1,700 to $1,800 range. Three officials will be present in games, with a fourth accompanying them on the bench.

In addition, tournament programs will be printed and include team rosters and advertising sponsors.

"Money from the ads helped defray the cost of the program and the T-shirts," Bell said. "This is not profitable at all. We want to break even. If we get a profit, we'll save it for next year."

Like the rest of the boys' clubs, the Badgers and Bears will play three matches — or one match per day — today, Wednesday, and Thursday at their respective home fields. All of the bracket games for Prescott and Bradshaw have a starting time of 6 p.m.

Depending on their point total in bracket action, Prescott and Bradshaw Mountain will then be seeded into a first-, second-, third-, or fourth-place match Saturday at Embry-Riddle. The team with the most points in the Prescott bracket will tackle the squad with the highest points in the Bradshaw bracket for the championship match Saturday at 3 p.m. (Points system explained at bottom of schedule.)

The respective point-total runners-up, and third- and fourth-place finishers from each bracket will also take on one another earlier in the day. A trophy will be awarded to the championship team, as well as to the second- and third-place clubs.

Overtime will be played, if necessary, in the championship and second-place matches. In that scenario, two 40-minute regulation halves would be followed by a 10-minute sudden-death OT period. If needed, a second 10-minute overtime would go into effect. A penalty-kick round would only be used if the overtimes were unsuccessful in ending the match.

Admission will be charged for the tournament, with $3 for adults and $1 for students (with ID) per game.

An Adult Tournament Pass will be made available for $10, one that can be used to attend all matches at any venue. If a fan presents the pass Saturday at Embry-Riddle, he or she can stay for each one of the day's four games.

Through the efforts of this tournament, Hilton and Bell said that they hope to raise the interest in club soccer across the tri-city area and encourage 10- to 14-year-olds to improve their skills. The coaches believe that these boys would then be better able to compete with the top prep programs in Arizona once they reach high school.

Bell added that he has contacted many schools for next year's tournament since facilities are available for expansion. He also wants to include an eight-team girls' bracket for the 2004 event.

"This tournament sends the message that we are serious about soccer and that we need solid club soccer in this area," Hilton said. "Right now there's a little tail-off as far as freshmen and sophomores are concerned here…

"We believe we can produce high-quality soccer players. We want to identify players technically and then train them in match conditions to take them to the next level."