There were cheers and tears last weekend as Santa Monica’s American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) Region 20 played down to its final champions in the boys and girls leagues, ages Under 10 – Under 14. With over 1,500 players, AYSO is the city’s largest youth sports league. The AYSO season started just after Labor Day and the dry hot Saturdays of late summer gave way to the final game of the season on a cold December Sunday, with both darkness and a major winter storm quickly approaching. In the final match, Coach Baltazar Ayala’s Maroon Men bested Coach Chris Byrne’s Black Jax to win the Boys Under 12 Division.
In earlier boys action, Coach Sebastian Sciupac’s Red Bulls won the U14 championship over runners-up The Blues coached by Randy Kornfield. Coach Chubb Gallie’s AC Milan defeated Coach Nicolas Saignac’s Blue Striped Tigers to win Boys U10, and in the U10 consolation game, Coach Ashley McDonough’s The Galaxy bested Mark Cullen’s The Glow.
BLU, coached by Richard Pye, won the Girls U14 championship over Steve Eyler’s Bazooka with a thrilling go-ahead goal with less than one minute left in double overtime. In Girls U12, Coach Sean Alatorre’s Gladiators defeated the Firecrackers, coached by Ian Hardwick. Coach Alex Benn’s Patriots captured the Girls U10 title over Kevin Michaels’ Bubble Gum, and Russell Riopelle’s Green Geckos bested Guido Davis del Piccolo’s Dirt Devils in the Girls U10 consolation game.
AYSO is an all-volunteer organization, and hundreds of parents and other community members step forward each year to promote soccer among youth, ages 4-18. Vincent Landay and Jonny Balfus are Co-Commissioners, and David Story is Head Referee. Barry Casilly and Greg Arvesen also helped with referee administration this fall.
AYSO Region 20 is a feeder to local high soccer programs, including Samohi. At Samohi, the girls Varsity has made the playoffs each of the last six years. Last year, the boys Varsity team went undefeated and ended up ranked Number Two in the entire nation (18 AYSO alumni were on the team).
What is next? Each division champion now enters post-season play against other AYSO Regions. The Santa Monica teams will keep playing as long as they keep winning, possibly all the way to the Area Championships in March.
AYSO principles include open registration for all children, and “everyone plays.” Some Santa Monica AYSO age groups fill quickly and online registration has already begun for fall ’09 at ayso20.org. There is a substantial discount for registering by December 31. Those who may need in-person help with registration can visit the AYSO Help Desk at Virginia Park on January 7, from 5:30-8:00 p.m. Financial assistance is available for qualifying families.