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Sea Turtles standing tall

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

These Turtles mean business.

The Sea Turtles, composed of soccer players from LaGrange, held their own against some of the best three-person high-school teams in the country during a tournament in Memphis, Tenn. a few weeks ago.

The Sea Turtles finished with a 2-3 record in the 3v3 National Championship, and two of their losses came to the teams that played for the championship.

The six members of the Sea Turtles who competed in Memphis were Miller DeVane, Jack DeVane, Noah Whipple, Tripp Hollstrom, Griffin Sanchez and Ander Gay, and the team is coached by Bill Whipple.

It was the continuation of a season that began during the summer, and the Sea Turtles have won a handful of tournaments and been competitive everywhere they’ve been.

The players, most of whom will be members of the LaGrange High soccer team next season, have enjoyed the experience of playing three-on-three soccer.

It’s a different game.

In normal soccer, there are 11 players on each side, and the games are usually played on football fields, so there is plenty of room to maneuver.

In three vs. three, the games are shorter, there is no goal keeper, there is a lot more scoring, and with only three players there is nowhere to hide.

“It tests the individual, more than the team, although there is team-work,” said Miller DeVane. “It tests individual skill, and how quickly you can think, because it is very fast-paced.”

Jack DeVane, Miller’s brother, enjoys how different three vs. three is from what he normally does.

“I like how it’s a little unorthodox,” Jack DeVane said. “It’s not the same. I’ve played 11 vs. 11 for as long as I can remember, so now it’s time to try something new, and we did pretty well for the first time.”

As far as his own game, Jack DeVane said “my touch on the ball has gotten much better because of it.”

Tripp Hollstrom said playing three vs. three soccer has helped him develop as a player.

“It makes you get faster, it makes you pass quicker, communicate,” Hollstrom said. “It builds chemistry as well. Also, it helps individual skills, like dribbling.”

Griffin Sanchez, echoing the thoughts of his teammates, also thinks the three vs. three format has been a major benefit.

“As a team, it helps, just working on our passing, learning how to pass in a tight space real quick, and defending quickly,” Sanchez said.

Most of the players, including Noah Whipple, are new to three vs. three soccer.

“This was brand new for me,” Whipple said. “I just kind of figure it out as we did it.”

Whipple and his teammates have enjoyed a successful season, and they showed in Memphis they can compete with the elite teams in the country.

“It’s really fun,” Whipple said. “It’s something I want to do and get better at and try to win the national championship.”

Shane Pulliam, the head boys’ soccer coach at LaGrange High, began the Sea Turtles program last spring.

Boys’ and girls’ teams in a handful of different age groups have participated in numerous tournaments over the past several months.

Pulliam has been pleased to see how many members of his LaGrange High team have embraced the three vs. three format.

“Most of these guys out here did it all summer, either with me at practice, or they went to tournaments and competed,” Pulliam said while his players participated in an after-school workout last week.

Pulliam said the family members of the players have also enjoyed the three vs. three experience.

“Once it gets in your blood, it’s hard to not want to do it,” Pulliam said. “And the parents love it. I’ve done this for a long time, and I tell the new parents, I know this sounds crazy, but once we get started doing all the stuff we do in the summer, the parents, like this season more than any other season. They get out there, and the game is so fast, and the music’s playing, and the tents are going. It’s like a whole team-bonding, chemistry thing. It’s great for the program.”

From a skills standpoint, Pulliam appreciates how much is required from a player in the three vs. three format.

“Because the field’s smaller, and you only have three, you have to keep shape, you have to communicate, defending shape, attacking shape, and when you lose the ball, transitional shape,” Pulliam said. “You have to be a little quicker, and a little smarter, because the game flies.”

Pulliam added that “there is nowhere to hide, and that’s what I like about it.”

The Sea Turtles aren’t done yet.

This weekend, the Sea Turtles will participate in a tournament in Cartersville, and the team may compete in a tournament in Orlando in January.

Competing in the Cartersville tournament will be Winston Herrera, Griffin Sanchez, Josue Recinos, Jason Recinos, Johnny McDonald and Logan Lopez.

When February comes around, it’ll be time for a new high-school season, and Pulliam’s Grangers will look to build on a successful season.

LaGrange finished second in Region 5-AAAA last spring before advancing to the second round of the state tournament.