The soccer team which calls the grass field of Clover Dell Park home will be heading off to play on the turf field of the World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton this weekend.
A wet, muddy field like the one that met Sacred Heart in the Class 1 quarterfinal on Saturday at Laquey will not be an issue for the Gremlins’ next two games. Sacred Heart will face Principia in the semifinal Friday morning and either St. Paul or Belle on Saturday. In addition to playing on a turf field in last year’s Final Four in Blue Springs, the Gremlins have played on turf several times this year including games at Rockhurst and some at the Kickapoo Tournament.
“We’re a possession style team so we like a turf field,” said Sacred Heart coach Travis Cooper.
Though they play on grass fields most of the time, Cooper said the Gremlins should not have to adjust much to the turf since their home at Clover Dell Park is one of the better grass fields.
Smith-Cotton coach Ethan Weller thinks the turf field in Fenton will play into Sacred Heart’s style.
“For teams that are highly skilled, turf is really nice because the ball rolls true, the ball gets to your target quickly and it’s much harder to defend,” Weller said. “I think their situation, with the style they play, I think they’ll be OK.”
Smith-Cotton split its time this season between the grass of Susie Ditzfeld Memorial Field and the turf of Tiger Stadium. Hoping to get back to the Final Four for the second year in a row, those plans were stopped by a 1-0 loss to Grain Valley in the district final on Wednesday. In the regular season, the Tigers played seven home games on grass, six on turf. Both games in the district tournament were at Tiger Stadium.
“There is some adjustment you have to make and a lot of it is how familiar you are with the surface,” Weller said. “There are a lot of changes that happen. The speed of play picks up. With the shorter surface, the ball travels much more quickly. … The weight of your ball has to be different in order for you to be accurate. Balls that are driven long or played in behind the backline, on grass sometimes those hold up, on turf if you play real direct, a lot of times the ball is going to run into an area where the goalie is going to come out and play it out.”
Weller thinks that, depending on how the early minutes of Friday’s game play out, it should only take a few minutes for the Gremlins players to get the feel for the surface. Cooper does not plan on changing anything in the Gremlins’ game plan for the turf.
“We will continue to train the way we always have and look to possess the ball and play,” Cooper said.
Eric Ingles can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @Eric_Ingles