The boys under 14 champion “Dolphins” of Santa Monica Region 20 of the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) clinched the AYSO Area P Championship in mid-January.
Winning their first two games against other champions from adjacent AYSO regions, the Dolphins faced perennial contender L.A. Central in the finals and indeed, the team’s mettle was tested as the Santa Monicans fell behind 0-1 at half. In the third quarter Giovanni Hernandez scored to tie the game. With only three tense minutes remaining, striker Justin Jenkins assisted to Hernandez for the go ahead goal – a goal players will probably remember for a lifetime.
The Dolphins’ success was the culmination of months of hard work and hard play during which the team was 13-2. In league play, the Dolphins outscored the competition 30-11. While forwards Giovanni Hernandez and Justin Jenkins lead the team in scoring, remarkably, 12 of 15 players on the squad scored at least one goal. Jake Leal anchored the squad at mid-field with great speed and passing. Sweeper Andrew Munoz and keepers Jason Roussos and Shea Peters anchored the defense over five months of play.
“Our team did not rely upon any single player. They truly worked as a unit to execute plays and I am proud of each and every player,” noted head coach Harry Roussos, who started with a newly formed team last September, including several players with little or no previous soccer experience. In addition to players previously named, the champions include: strikers Christian Jaimes and Nicholas Lalich; mid-fielders John McQueeney, Ian Gimzewski and Reeve McNall; and, defenders Logan Minium, Austin Park, Lester Pivaral and Charlie Seeholtzer.
Under the direction of Commissioner Maryanne LaGuardia, AYSO is Santa Monica’s largest youth sports league with approximately 1,800 players plus hundreds of adult volunteer coaches, referees and others. AYSO is a feeder to the powerhouse Santa Monica High School women’s and men’s soccer program. In addition to athletic excellence, the league is dedicated to positive coaching and good sportsmanship. AYSO also benefits Santa Monica by renovating playing fields, including recent improvements at John Adams and Lincoln Middle Schools. A scholarship program enables participation by players from families who might not otherwise be able to afford registration fees.
Meanwhile, no rest for the intrepid Dolphins. They next carry the Santa Monica banner to the AYSO Section 1 championship tournament in March – Section 1 encompasses a vast region including central and southern California and parts of Nevada.