The Santa Monica American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) Girls Under 12 Bruisers grew their winning streak to 15 games by capturing the Area Championships in Culver City earlier this month. The Bruisers will advance as top seeds to the Section Championships in Riverside March 1-2. Two additional Santa Monica league champs, Boys Under 12 Green Highlighters (co-coached by Rich Gross and Loren Drake) and Girls Under 14 Grass Kickers (coached by Gary Berry), finished second in the Culver City tournament and will advance to Riverside as wild card entries. Girls Under 10 Piranhas (coached by Gary Clouse) made it to the medal round in Culver City, finishing in a respectable third place.
Among all the Culver City tournament stories, none is more exciting than that of the champion Bruisers. They took the first round game against a strong South Los Angeles team 1-0 on a penalty kick by Mikala Alatorre. In the second round, the Bruisers fell a goal behind Beverly Hills early on, but battled back with a goal by Sadie Schiffman-Eller, who later scored a second go-ahead goal for a 2-1 victory. The final, championship match was against home team and perennial powerhouse Culver City. Early in the game, Schiffman-Eller scored her third goal of the tournament to give Santa Monica a 1-0 lead. Culver City rebounded to tie the game 1-1 in the fourth quarter. The teams then played two grueling overtime periods and were still deadlocked at 1-1. The game – and the championship – went to shoot out. Each team made three of the first five shots from penalty mark and then each team worked its way through its 11-player roster in “golden goal” penalty kicks. Finally, in the second round of kicks, Santa Monica’s Jianna Parmenter nailed her penalty shot and put the Bruisers up 5-4. Bruiser goalkeeper Ari Kaback – who had courageously blocked shot-after-shot by some of the best young soccer players in Southern California – next made an incredible save to block Culver City’s final shot and bring the Area Championship home to Santa Monica.
“This has been a magical season,” notes Bruisers coach Sean Alatorre. “Our priorities are to play safe, play fair, and most of all have fun. I am happy for all my players and their families.”AYSO, Santa Monica’s largest youth sports league in terms of participation, fields well over 1,000 players aged 4-18 each fall. Sign-up and other league information is at ayso20.org.