But a phone call a month later rekindled those dreams, and later this month, a group of West Michigan men will head south to Clearwater Beach, Fla., to compete with seven other teams in the Major Beach Soccer 2011 National Championships.
“We have a pretty good team, and we’ve won the Grand Haven tournament three of the last four years,” said Rob Saurbaugh, a 2000 Grand Haven graduate. “But this year we got runner-up to a team that will be in the national tournament. We lost by a goal in the finals.”
The Grand Haven Soccer in the Sand serves as a qualifier for the national tournament, which will be held Dec. 17-18. Coming up short in the finals looked to have sealed the fate for Saurbaugh and his teammates.
A few weeks later, event organizer Chris Lemay called Saurbaugh and said a team out of Boston that had qualified had decided not to attend the national tournament.
“They were looking for another team that would be able to hang with these teams,” Saurbaugh said. “With our record in Grand Haven alone, and knowing our guys, they knew that if we wanted to go, we would put together a team that would compete well and represent this area.
“Plus, it helps them out because Grand Haven is a big tournament for them.”
Saurbaugh called a team meeting, and the consensus was, “Let’s do it!”
“When we played in Grand Haven, most of the guys were like, ‘If we win this we’re going down there,’ but you never know how committed people are,” Saurbaugh said. “I got ahold of everybody, we had a team meeting and everybody was on board.”
The team’s name is SLFD, short for Spring Lake Family Dentistry. SLFD consists of Saurbaugh and fellow GHHS graduates Kevin Hardy (class of 2000), Michael Vollmer (2001), Ryan Severance (2002), Travis Dahlman (2002), Eric Corle (2002), Zak McCabe (2003) and Jeremy Greene (2007), along with WMC grads Phil VanRees (2003) and Tyler Lane (2010).
Lane, the team’s goalie, currently plays soccer at Muskegon Community College. VanRees served as an assistant coach on the Spring Lake varsity boys soccer team that reached the state finals in Division 2 last month.
The team immediately began searching for local sponsors to help offset the cost of the trip, and found that area businesses — including Verplank Trucking, Sherwin Williams, AMS, IMI and Cushe Footwear — were more than willing to help out.
“We tried to keep the cost down by renting a van to drive down there,” Saurbaugh said. “A few of the guys who have more money are flying, but most of us are taking a van.”
Saurbaugh said that the team has high hopes going into the national event, which does not include a cash pay-out to the winners. They realize the competition will be tough — one of the teams in the field, Florida Beach Soccer FC, recently won the prestigious Coop U.S. Open in Virginia Beach and has played tournaments across the country.
“We’re going down there to try to win it, but we’re also going down to have a good time,” Saurbaugh said. “It’s not going to be the end of the world if we don’t get as far as we’d like, but this is a competitive group of guys.
“If we’re going to drive 1,200 miles, I’m pretty sure everybody is going to leave it all on the field.”