Introducing the winners of the Cal South state cup, Real So Cal’s very own Girls Under 9 North Ranch White team!
Coach Tim Ward spoke about the journey. “The journey started back in January 2015 with our first state cup appearance. The girls were playing up a year, thus the challenge was a little above what they were capable of. However I truly feel that experience helped the girls coming into this years state cup. Since then the girls have given so much to their development. The focus and desire they have brought to every training session this year has been the key to their success.”
Off the back of a very strong SCDSL Fall league season (9-2-1 record), and a well-earned winter break, the girls returned confident and ready to take on the challenge! They did not disappoint.
Pool Play (Jan 23-24, Silverlakes complex, Norco)
The girls were excellent throughout group play! Three consistent all around team performances culminated in three wins, 4-0, 1-0 & 4-0. Nine goals for and zero against! What a difference a year makes!
Knockout rounds begin!
Round of 32 (Jan 30th, Lancaster national soccer complex)
Winning their bracket meant that the girls would play the wildcard team, but they were under know illusions that the game would be any easier! The girls were drawn against FC Heat. Giving up an early penalty kick and struggling to find any flow the girls trailed 1-0 at half time. Coach Ward recalls, “we had some sad faces at the half, however I am proud to say that for a team that hadn’t trailed a lot all year we showed great nerve and character and produced a much better second half performance. We went on to win the game 2-1 with goals from Kaia Tan and Lily Sadiharo.”
Sweet sixteen (Jan 31st, Lancaster National soccer complex)
The girls were drawn against LA premier FC of the Coast Soccer League. The biggest challenge for both teams was the 50mph winds! We scored first. From a wide area Kaia drilled a great effort hard and low that was deflected into the goal off an LA Premier player. LA Premier got a deserved equalizer and the game finished 1-1. The ability to hold your nerve in a ‘PK’ shootout was going to decide our fate!
Coach Ward and the girls felt very confident going into the PK shootout. This was due to the intentional and focused repetitive practice they had been putting in on the training ground. “We’ve been practicing PK’s at the end of EVERY PRACTICE, so I told the girls (quite truthfully) that I don’t believe their is another U9 team in the country that has taken more PK’s than us and is more prepared then us, just go and do your thing”, were coach Wards final words.
The wind was a challenge but we had enough girls hold their nerve and execute their PK’s (Ellie Korman, Charlotte Ward, Avery Oder all made their PK’s) while Serena Sanders stepped into goal and made two great saves to WIN the game for us. Tears of joy from the players, flying tarps from the parents! We were moving on to the Elite eight!
Quarter Final (February 2nd, IE Soccer Complex, San Bernardino)
Once again the game was at the mercy of the wind! Soccer balls, hats and babies were blowing everywhere! Kicking with the wind in the first half coach Ward and the girls knew that they would need to play with intensity and high pressure and force errors and win the ball back in their opponents half. And the girls did just that! Dominating the game in all areas, especially shots on goal, it was only a matter of time before we scored. The desire of Kaia Tan resulted in a collision with a Slammers player sending the ball into the air. The wind did the rest, taking the ball over the head of the goalkeeper and into the net. A well deserved 1-0 in our favor at the half! Coach Ward said, “Knowing that we would be facing the “breath of God” for the next 25 minutes we elected to put Jaida Pryor in goal. Jaida’s hands intervened in the most beautiful ways to prevent the Slammers from equalizing”. The final whistle blew, the girls had reached the final four of state cup!
Semi Final (February 13th, Silverlakes soccer complex, Norco)
We were drawn in the semi final against a home town team, Arsenal FC, who we considered as one of the favorites to win the tournament. To be fair, they were well coached, had some nice players. They started on the front foot and went 1-0 up through a good goal. “The beautiful thing about going down a goal is it makes come-backs that much sweeter”, said Ward. As in the early rounds the girls again found strength in adversity and comeback with a goal from Jaida Pryor just before half time. In the second half, both teams slugged it out and it was really a very good game of soccer with neither team ever able to break through from the run of play…so BACK to penalty kicks we went. We won the coin toss and elected to shoot first. We missed our first shot while they made their first. Charlotte Ward made her shot and then Serena Sanders pulled out a huge save to make it 1-1 after two shooters. Claire Little stepped up and calmly slotted her PK while the Arsenal player did the same. Our fourth shooter hit the post, but Serena made a great save on their 4th shot. Kaia stepped up and buried our 5th to put us ahead 3-2 and put all of the pressure on their last shooter…their best player. She, fortunately for us, shot just wide of the post! The girls had reached the state cup finals!
State cup Final (February 14th, Silverlakes soccer complex)
Opponents, Oceanside Breakers were a very good team! There record was impressive, having rolled everyone in the tournament they had played. That said, Coach Ward began to remind the girls of there record, how well they had played and how much they deserved to be part of this moment!
Coach Ward recalled the game, “I’m proud to say that every single one of our ten girls played brilliantly in the final. I’ve been around the game for a long time and some people, some athletes “freeze” or “choke” on the big stage…Our team is quite the opposite. It seems with our girls that in the State Cup tourney especially, that the bigger the challenge, the better the performance. All of the things we had worked on over the course of the previous year…defensive shape, rhythm and speed of play…using skills under pressure, counter attacking, good decisions under pressure, game management, communication. Everything seemed like it all just clicked in the final. It was a beautiful thing to watch vs. a very good opponent. Our game-winning goal was scored by Lily Sadahiro. With about 10 minutes to go in the second half, she chased down a through ball and touched it around both the gk and a pursuing Breaker defender. Leaving the carnage of a gk/defender collision behind her, Lily calmly curled her right footed shot ever so beautifully into the far post for a most glorious match-winner”.
“Now the last 10 minutes seemed to go into slow motion…and its hard to recap all of the drama that followed. Serena Sanders had replaced Brianna Bergstrom at half time in goal. BB had made two fantastic saves to preserve the shut out in the first half and Serena went on to make two very dramatic late saves including one diving save to her left with two minutes on the clock to preserve the win for our squad in the second. It should be noted that as time was winding down, a crowd was gathering around the championship field…and what the neutral fan would have seen was a Real So Cal team that was united, strong, skilled, smart and determined to fulfill a promise they had made to each other a year earlier. Our entire squad did an amazing job of managing the game down the stretch as we switched shapes into a 3-3-1 to prevent the other team from getting an attack going. When the final whistle blew…I know I speak for the squad when I say it felt surreal and yet so incredibly satisfying. To have worked so hard, and then to have been rewarded so richly for that investment was truly an honor and a blessing”.
The girls had just won the Cal South State Cup Championship…and after shaking hands with a very worthy opponent, our girls huddled in our half of the field, looked at each other, smiled, some might have even had a tear in their eye…and then they did the only appropriate thing a champion should do…they sang ole, ole, ole, ole….ole, ole
What a difference a year makes. Congratulations to the players, parents and staff!
2016 Cal South State Cup Champions
• Brianna Bergstrom
• Ellie Korman
• Claire Little
• Elena Melgoza
• Avery Oder
• Jaida Pryor
• Lily Sadahiro
• Serena Sanders
• Kaia Tan
• Charlotte Ward
Coaches: Tim & Shelby Ward, Jose Melgoza.
Manager: Grace Korman