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November 12, 2010
By PAUL MONTANA - Bulletin Sports Writer

If you think the USA South Conference soccer tournament was a big event at the Smith River Sports Complex last weekend, brace yourself.

This weekend's Piedmont Shootout will showcase between 65 and 70 travel soccer teams at the complex, including seven teams from Martinsville's own Piedmont Youth Soccer League.

This weekend's event will be "our largest attended event," attracting between 3,000 and 4,000 people on the tournament's first day, Saturday, according to SRSC director of operations Billy Russo.

"The good thing about it for us, a lot of the parents that travel, they don't go anywhere," Russo said. "They stay at the complex all day.

"Probably the busiest event we have is this event. It's huge for us concession-wise, it's huge for us to showcase the facility."

The tournament will feature boys and girls from 11-and-younger to 19-and-younger age groups, with games running from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday on all of the complex's five fields.

PYSL is fielding two boys teams in the 11-and-younger age group; one boys team each in 13-and-younger, 15-and-younger, 17-and-younger and 19-and-younger; and a girls team in 16-and-younger.

Each team is placed in a three- or four-team bracket, and is guaranteed at least two games against teams within the bracket.

In most of the brackets, the teams are then reseeded based on their two-game record for Sunday's semifinal games, which also begin as early as 8 a.m. Final games follow later in the day, and those playoff brackets with four teams will also have third-place games.

Lights at the facility allow the late-night game scheduling, which is one of the many perks of the complex, according to PYSL director of coaching Enda Crehan.

"It helps with scheduling," said Crehan, adding that "for a 12- or a 16-year-old old, it's cool to play under the lights. You feel like a real professional maybe. That's really a great factor."

"Everyone's looking forward to playing on the surface because it's so good," he added. "It's a great atmosphere, it's a central location. That I think is the key, is that it's a great facility."

The tournament became so popular after it debuted last year that PYSL had to turn away some teams simply because they couldn't accommodate them, said Russo and Crehan.

Part of its popularity is because of the all-weather turf fields. The Piedmont Shootout was one of three soccer tournaments on the same weekend last year, Russo said, but the other tournaments in Richmond and Greensboro were canceled due to rain.

Parents and coaches knowing that the tournament will withstand in mid-November weather - "unless there's a freakin' hurricane," joked Russo - is part of what brought even more teams to the tournament this year.

"That helped, I think," Russo said. "People have been to our facility. We're not fresh anymore."

Russo added that the complex staff learned from last year's experience. The concession stands stand ran out of food and drinks last year due to the unanticipated attendants, but measures have been taken to make sure that won't happen this year, he said.

Fields 1 and 2 will be split in half for the 11-and-younger and 12-and-younger age groups to play their small-sided games in the morning. The older players will use Fields 3, 4 and 5 throughout the day, and Fields 1 and 2 in the afternoon and evening.

In addition to testing the teams' quality of soccer, the tournament will also test players' conditioning, with several teams playing games back-to-back Saturday.

"It's going to be a good weekend," Crehan said. "We're looking forward to it."