The next few days will be busy ones for Cleveland High School, as it hosts the fifth annual Cleveland Classic at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex.
“We were fortunate to get this soccer complex, which was created for the purpose of developing quality tournaments and showcasing exceptional soccer talent,” Cleveland head coach Andy Byrd said. “The bottom line is that we are trying to create a soccer culture out here and the tournament is a very important, integral part of what we do at Cleveland High School. We’re creating a culture for children to thrive in.”
Beginning this evening and running until Saturday evening, the Classic boasts of eight participating teams, with some traveling a good distance to be involved.
“We’ve got teams coming in from upper East Tennessee and Middle Tennessee. We’ve got some quality teams — this isn’t a slouchers tournament,” Byrd stated. “I expect big things from us and I expect good-quality soccer throughout the whole tournament.”
Local teams consist of Soddy-Daisy, McMinn Central, Signal Mountain and the hosting Lady Raiders.
Making the trek from Murfreesboro are Oakland and Blackman, with Dobyns-Bennett and Sullivan South venturing down from Kingsport.
According to Coach Byrd, six of the eight teams in the Classic could possibly be seen again by Cleveland in post season play.
With the Lady Raiders 3-1 (1-0) early on in the season, Coach Byrd has no qualms about letting the team’s goals be known.
“Our varsity team goals are to have a cumulative 3.5 GPA, to win the district, win the region, win a substate game and get in the state tournament. I’m not afraid to make that public, simply because when things are made public, the pressure is on,” Byrd stated.
The Lady Raiders will take on Signal Mountain tonight at 7:30, Oakland at 6:30 on Friday, and finish up with Dobyns-Bennett at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.
“You really can’t tell how we’ll fare against Oakland. I’ve looked at some records and we’ve beat them here and they’ve beat us here. It’s really up in the air,” Byrd commented. “In our world you want results now, but it’s really not that way. You’ve got to wait and let the season play out. This is just an earlier tournament for teams to showcase who they are and for them to learn about themselves.”
Knowing that the next few days will be no picnic, Byrd admits his team will get put through the paces.
“It should be a great three days. We’ll take our lumps in this tournament I’m sure but at the same time it’s how you react and what you learn,” Byrd said. “I’ve got a great set of [players’] parents, fans, and a great group of girls. I’m just lucky to be the man watching on the side.”