By the end of the day Sunday, something is certain: at least one Far West Regional Championship will be coming home to Orange County. Semi final action on Saturday saw two local teams fall and three prevail in Boise, Idaho.
There will be no return trip to the USYSA National Championship for Randy Dodge’s U18 squad. One of the most prolific teams in the history of So Cal Blues, the owners of five consecutive Surf Cup titles and a National Championship, saw their club careers end at the hands of Real So Cal (Cal South), in a 2-1 battle that took double overtime to decide. ESPN/Rise All American Haley Rosen began the drive that culminated in the Blues only goal of the match. After beating two defenders, Rosen found teammate Erica Mazeau to her right, and describes how the rest of the sequence developed.
“I was fortunate to find some space and was able to get past a couple of Real players. Erica was making a great run and I was able to get the ball out to her. She served a great ball across the goal and MacKenzie Cochrane (Santa Margarita HS/Fresno State) got a head on it for a fantastic finish.”
The Blues lone goal would not be enough, however, as Real So Cal gained the equalizer two minutes into extra time, to force the match from regulation, into overtime. After a scoreless first overtime period, Real netted what would be the game winner with seven minutes left, and held on to advance to Sunday’s final, where they will face Colorado Rush Nike.
A four time, All CIF honoree, Rosen said she is more disappointed about her time with the team being over, than with losing an individual game.
“We’ve had so many great experiences with this team,” Rosen explained. “Of course, we wanted to win Regionals and give ourselves a chance to repeat as National Champions. It’s sad to see it end because we’ve had a phenomenal coach who has helped us become a phenomenal team. Being part of this team has helped us achieve our dreams of playing (soccer) in college, so that’s the biggest accomplishment. But we’re definitely all feeling pretty sad tonight.”
In a game played immediately prior to his U18’s semi final loss, Dodge was similarly disappointed when his Blues U19 squad was eliminated by local girls, Super Nova 91/92, the Idaho State Champions in their semi final match.
Cinderella’s slipper – or cleat, in this instance – at the Far West Regional Championships may very well belong to Coach Dido Tshimanga’s U17 So Cal Blues, who once again battled back from a 0-1 deficit to defeat Oregon Rush Nike, to move into the Far West Regional Championship game. It is the first time Coach Tshimanga has led a team to the finals of Far West Regionals. Tshimanga became the head coach for this squad in November of 2010, and advanced to the FWR Championships by winning the Far West Regional League’s fall season.
“We really only started working together in March, after the high school season,” said Coach Tshimanga. “Since then, we’ve been training three times a week to prepare for Regionals. I’m very proud of the girls, because they have come a long way in a very short period of time.” In the finals, the Blues U17’s will contend with Rio Vista FC (New Mexico), who beat Cal South’s Legends FC to earn their berth in the final.
“We played Rio Vista in pool play and won 1-0. They play a very aggressive, high pressure game. We have our game plan and if we execute, I believe we will do well.”
Danielle Spriggs (Dana Hills HS) led the way for Tshimanga today, scoring the second and third goals, after teammate Madison Krauser (Woodbridge HS) netted the Blues first goal, to tie the match.
“We started very slowly in today’s semi final,” said Tshimanga. “We had no rhythm and gave up a lot in the middle that allowed them to score. We settled into our own game with about ten minutes left in the first half, and were able to equalize. I felt that the second half really belonged to our team.”
The girls U17 finals will be played Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
In the U15 group, the Far West Regional Championship is guaranteed to be won by an Orange County team, as perennial rivals So Cal Blues and Slammers FC will meet to vie for the title. The winner will represent the Far West Region at the USYSA National Championships in Phoenix, Arizona next month.
Coach Larry Draluck’s So Cal Blues squad was tied 0-0 at halftime of today’s semi final, but broke the game open on a goal by Nikki Miyashiro.
“I think yesterday’s game helped give us some confidence,” said Draluck. “Nikki Miyashiro – the girls call her “Mosh” – worked really hard to get us the first goal today. She kept up her work rate and had the assist to Kaitlin Klawunder for our second goal. Indigo Gibson was able to get the better part of a little collision and poke the ball in for the last goal.”
The contestants in tomorrow’s final are familiar foes, which Draluck acknowledged. “It’s not fun to play against the Slammers,” he said, “and I mean that in the most respectful way. It’s never relaxing or easy to compete against their teams, because they are so good. It’s really stressful, but the truth of it is that they force us to become better. The level of competition between the two clubs is exceptional. Without Slammers there wouldn’t be a Blues, and I think vice versa. It (the rivalry) is a great representation of the quality of competition in Cal South.”
That rivalry will continue in the Girls U15 finals Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. For up to the minute scores and results, visit the official site of the Far West Regional Championships.