With over 1,500 youth soccer players aged 4-19, Santa Monica’s American Youth Soccer League (AYSO) is the city’s largest sports league. Fielding literally hundreds of teams, the fall ’06 season launched in September, and last weekend the league’s playoffs started. The girls and boys Under 10 Division titles were decided at Clover Field last Sunday afternoon. For players ten and under, AYSO plays “short sided” seven-on-seven to give each player plenty of action, and there was, indeed, plenty of action as players from four strong teams swarmed the field seeking championship trophies.
The girls were first taken to a muddy field where the Predators, coached by Barry Cassilly, faced the Lightning Tigers, coached by Cyndi Mladinov. Both teams had battled through two playoff games on Saturday to reach the finals. The girls were very evenly matched, and after 50 minutes of regulation play, the score was tied 0-0. The teams next played an overtime period and still no score. A “tie-breaker” shootout followed with the Predators finally winning the championship trophy 2-0 on penalty kicks. Predator players included Kailyn Smith, Nicola Turner, Shane Cassilly, Lynsi Moore, Eliza Cohen, Valentina Sallas, Anne Hulbert and Ariana Lomeli. Runners-up on the Lightning Tigers squad included Cora Jane Kaufman, Mackenzie Varner, Olivia Sonssan, Linda Gordon, Teagan LaBrie, Keaton Schmidt, Julia Gordon and Shirley Saykali.
The boys’ final featured the Tsunami, coached by Angel Vasquez, and the Red Dragons, coached by Loren Drake. In a furious first half, the two teams battled to a 0-0 tie. The Red Dragons quickly took charge early in the second half with not one, but two incredibly hard shots on goal that deflected off the top bar and back onto the field. Tsunami subsequently responded with several breakaway attacks and ended up winning the match, 3-0. Tsunami players included Jason Rosenbach, Kai Bernstein, Cameron Radenberg, Eduardo Vasquez, Jake Davidson, Ricky Reynoso, Augustin Citrin and Lionel McGloin. The Red Dragon team included William Mendoza, Alex Groenerdaal-Jones, Kuba Preis, Theo Dunsky, Kevin Needham, Tab Chapman, Mateo Gonzalez-Drake, Shawn Makhani and Edwin Hernandez.
The two winning teams will now advance to post-season play against other Southern California AYSO regions. AYSO is based upon good sportsmanship, positive coaching, everyone plays, balanced teams and open registration regardless of ability. For sign-up/volunteer information for the 2007 AYSO fall season visit www.ayso20.org or call 310 451-6711. The league fills quickly, especially in the younger age group divisions.