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Historic Western States Runs for Santa Monica U12 Extra Teams

Both Santa Monica U12 Extra teams advanced to the Western States Finals this March, capping another fine season for the girls and a historic run for the boys. Santa Monica’s U12B Extra team capped a historic regular fall season title by winning, first, the Section One West Playoffs in North Torrance and, second, the Section One Championships in Riverside in February, defeating a tough Palos Verdes team to reach the Western States Championships in March.

And though neither team won the ultimate title, and the boys’ emotions remain raw after two close losses in winnable games, nothing can take away the amazing accomplishments of our players all season to get to that point. As RC Lance Zuckerbraun reminds us, we made it to the Final Four from a pool of approximately 2,000 Western States teams.

For the BU12x, along the way, these 12 Santa Monica boys also took the Upland Highlander Extra Games Tournament in January, edging FC Pali in a prophetic PK shootout for the title, as well as the Locomotion Super Chief title in February, matching the girls’ title moments before and notching a first such championship for a Region 20 boys team.

 

  The girls, meanwhile, started of their season with an Extra Cup victory in Camarillo on Labor Day weekend, then were quick out the gate with back to back victories against Palos Verdes to start area play, beating a quality side that had competed at State as a U11 team. There was talk of going undefeated… which ended abruptly seven games in with 1-0 a loss in league play to San Pedro. The girls, however, quickly rebounded and went on to win the area with a record of 12 and 1. More impressive was the fact they scored 55 goals while conceding just five in a dominant regular season display.

 

When the playoffs began, the girls team was reminded of potential banana skins as the same team had been ousted from the playoffs in the first round as a U11 team. They passed the first three games with flying colors scoring 18 goals and conceding just two. As expected, waiting in the final was Palos Verdes, who had proceeded to win 11 straight after their two losses against us at the start of the season. Palos Verdes came to play and scored twice in the final five minutes to become Section One West Area champs, a lesson for the kids of Santa Monica. Coach Dickie Pye, however, had a secret; he had already been informed that both teams would advance to Sectionals, so the girls moved on to Riverside, carrying happy memories when they arrived of their Locomotion win the prior weekend.

With the 2nd seed from the West, there waiting in the semifinal was Via Verde, pre-tournament favorite which apparently had not lost all season. A tough, thrilling game proceeded, in unusually cool weather and with the Saints prevailing 2-1, in the process delivering undoubtedly their best performance of the season. Once again the girls’ old nemesis PV were waiting in the final, and this time there was no known safety net awaiting the loser. The girls gave a fine account of themselves and took a 1-0 lead and were dominant. PV battled and equalized from their only shot of the game.

“We huffed and we puffed but couldn't wear them down and get the winner,” lamented Pye. “After overtime we went to penalties, and unfortunately for us PV took them like Germany and we took them like England.”

Tears flowed with PV easy PK winners as the U12 boys applauded the girls’ valiant effort nonetheless, awaiting their own Sectional final showdown with Palos Verdes, the same team they beat in Area. Just as the girls were shaking hands, however, a sectional representative appeared with a surprise: the girls had earned a wild card to States.

“I went into a huddle of crying pre teenagers got them all reluctantly to crack a smile and announced we were going to state. The girls and parents went mental, their expressions were priceless,” recalls Pye.

The boys path was somewhat different. At Locomotion, the BU12x Saints notched five relatively easy wins to get to the championship game, once again versus Palisades. And once again, the two teams found themselves tied at the end of regulation and OT, setting the stage for another shootout win, this one with all five Saints shooters finding the back of the net. At the Section One Playoffs on February 21, our boys defeated Redlands 5-1 in the semis and then avenged the girls’ PK loss by another clear victory over Palos Verdes, 3-0 this time, to take the title.

On to the Western States playoffs at a very impressive facility in Orange County (just imagine what we could do with that airport of ours!). The girls played North Valley in the semifinal, were “very poor” in the first half and fortunate to go in 0-0 at half time. The girls buckled down in the second half, however, and played some good soccer, advancing with a 2-0 victory. On to the final where the infamous Garden Grove are waiting with an army of supporters along with a squad of 15, due to the fact their region plays 11 a side, and an impressive resume including as reigning U11 state champs and a GU12 National game championship title(which they won playing as a U 11 team, no less!). A mistake occurs right at the start of the game, and the girls found themselves 1-0 down,( coach’s fault; a story for another day), and our girls were finding it tough but hanging in there. After a beautifully struck free kick, we are all tied at the half 1-1.

Recounting the day, Coach Pye says, “I know the girls are tired, playing on 90 minutes less rest, with a smaller squad, but we are playing with house money, and the word destiny is in the half time speech after all the wild cards. Garden Grove come out strong, want the ball more, have more in the tank and proceed to score four goals in the space of five minutes, and like a flash it’s all over at 5-1. We are all over the place in the second half and were soundly beaten. Unfortunately we didn't leave our best game for last, but what a ride for our young ladies from Santa Monica.”

At the Western States, the boys’ run, too, came to an end, with close 5-3 and 2-1 defeats to Camarillo and Valencia, leaving Santa Monica hungry for another chance with U13Bx in 2015/16. These losses in fact were the team’s first defeats since an away game to Palos Verdes in the regular season back in November.

Either way, just making it to the Western States Finals is a tremendous accomplishment for both teams. The coaches and parents of both teams couldn’t be prouder of the players, who through four years of dedication, dating back to U9 developmental team genesis, really put together the whole package in 2014/15. We also couldn’t have done it without the support and backing of Region 20 and our amazing volunteers who have worked tirelessly to provide the infrastructure engendering our current success.

Perhaps the greatest attributes of the Santa Monica U12 teams this year is the balance, complete with intimidating attackers, skilled midfielders, agile keepers, and speedy defenders, all working hard as a team. Crafty play is another hallmark of these teams, at times featuring beautiful one- and-two touch passing combos to set up penetrating runs met by perfectly-weighted diagonal through balls—and with teammates always working to fill space, cover back, and regain shape. Both the boys and girls also showed incredible heart, always believing and never giving up. Go Santa Monica!

Santa Monica AYSO Region 20 is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to youth soccer. We receive no public funds and all of our expenses are paid from the registration fees of the children who play. We expect ALL parents to participate in a volunteer role.
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