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Major soccer tournament coming to LaGrange

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

The fields at the Chris Joseph Soccer Complex will be well-utilized this weekend.

Dozens of teams and hundreds of players from across the Southeast will participate in a Kick It 3 vs. 3 soccer tournament on Saturday, with the games starting at 8 a.m.

Among the participants will be 11 teams that are part of the Sea Turtles, an organization created three years ago by LaGrange High head boys’ soccer coach Shane Pulliam.

The Sea Turtles have thrived over the years, with its different teams winning numerous tournament championships.

The 3 vs. 3 game is drastically different than regular soccer.

In 3 vs. 3, each team has six total players, and three of them are on the field at a time, compared to regular soccer where there are 11 players on each team.

“There’s nowhere to hide,” Pulliam said. “You can either do the stuff, or you can’t. On a big field, you have plenty of room, and if you can’t do it you can get away with it. Here, you’re going to sub in, and you’re going to play some minutes. If you’re not ready, then you’re going to struggle.”

Noah Whipple, a member of LaGrange High’s soccer team, enjoys the fast pace of the 3 vs. 3 game.

“I love playing it,” said Whipple, who is part of a 3 vs. 3 team that has enjoyed tremendous success. “I enjoy when we went to nationals. That was really fun to compete. I feel like it’s also helped me get a lot better as a player, and it’s a good way to play throughout the summer and keep in shape.”

Anthony Castillo, a teammate of Whipple’s at LaGrange, also likes the fast-paced action of a 3 vs. game.

“I enjoy it,” Castillo said. “It’s quicker, and it’s fun to play.”

Anthony’s brother, Elvis Castillo, said “it’s quicker, and it helps your touches. It’s fun.”

The Sea Turtles have participated in numerous tournaments over the years, but this will be the first time they’ve competed on their home turf.

The Kick It organization puts on tournaments across the country, and this will be the first time it has held an event in Troup County.

“I think it’s a great thing for soccer here,” Whipple said.

Pulliam is grateful for the way the local soccer community has embraced the 3 vs. 3 game.

“When we first started doing this, we had two different practices, but we didn’t have the commitment to come out and compete,” Pulliam said. “We might have had kids that came out and did this for practice, but they didn’t sign up and play in the tournaments. To have this many playing in a tournament is big. It has taken off.”

Pulliam also likes the way the players have taken ownership of their teams.

One team made up of seventh-graders and eighth-graders decided on its own to compete in a major tournament in Florida, and it almost won the championship.

“I didn’t even organize it,” Pulliam said. “They organized it and went on their own. All the sudden I get this text message that we finished as national runner-up, and I said in what?”

Another successful team is one that includes LaGrange’s Tripp Hollstrom, an all-state player last spring.

“Tripp’s team, they’ve been in the quarterfinals (of the national tournament) every year and finished top-six in the country,” Pulliam said.

As for Saturday’s tournament, it will be action-packed, and there will be plenty of offense.

“This has lots of goals,” Pulliam said. “That’s one reason why the parents like it, why the kids like it.”