Cheers, tears, and unseasonably warm weather characterized last weekend’s culminating playoffs of the Fall Season of Santa Monica’s American Youth Soccer Organization Region 20, the city’s largest youth sports league with over 1,500 players. Six teams earned their respective championships in ages 10 through 14. In Girls 14, the Firey 14’s took home top honors for coaches Cheryl Byrne and Raul Guiterez. F C Lightning, coached by Michael Flood and Kenny Lambert, completed a perfect no-loss season and captured the Boys 14 title.
AYSO is an all-volunteer league and this season four 20-something soccer buddies and Santa Monica AYSO alumni – Alex Caloyeras, Jack Ross, Jimmy Bromberg and Chad Stecher – volunteered to coach a Boys 12 team, Sandstorm. Under their guidance, Sandstorm won the B12 championship. The Girls 12 final was between two powerful squads, Cookie Monsters and Green Slime. The squads met twice during the regular season and split wins. The final was tied at the end of regulation and still tied after overtime play. It went to shoot-out where Cookie Monster’s keeper made the deciding penalty kick to bring home victory for coaches Gary Berry and Bill Jepson.
Competition was incredibly intense for the 10 year olds as well. In Boys 10, Eagles of Doom, coached by Benjamin Hutchinson and Ernie Johnston, took an undefeated record into the final match but were trailing by two goals going into the fourth quarter. Incredibly, the team rallied to tie the score by the end of regulation, then scored the go-ahead goal in overtime leaving Eagle supporters on the sidelines emotionally exhausted but jubilant. Likewise, the Girls 10 match went into overtime and was still tied 2-2 at the end of play. It went to shoot-out and the Shooting Stars, coached by Joe Facenda and Jerry Di Rienzo, won on penalty kicks 3-2.
With time off for the holidays, the six champion squads will resume play in January, representing Santa Monica against other AYSO region champs in Southern California. Region 20 is led by Co-Commissioners Vincent Landay and Jonny Balfus. David Story is Head Referee. They are supported by literally hundreds of volunteers who make play possible each Fall weekend for players aged four and half through eighteen. Information, including action photos and sign-up for Fall 2011, is available at www.ayso20.org.