John Napier on His GU98 Team At The 2015 US Youth Soccer ODP Championships
Cal South teams earn three more ODP Championship at the 2015 US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program Championships at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix, Ariz. Region IV teams swept three titles in the 1998 and 1999 Boys and Girls age groups, for a historical third consecutive year. John Napier, a long-time member of our ODP coaching staff — will be inducted into the Cal South Hall of Fame later this month.” Napier coaches for the San Diego Soccer Club.
Here is John Napier’s thoughts on the soccer experience:
The Cal South trip to 2015 US Youth Soccer ODP Championships was exciting for all the teams.
My G98 were incredible, it was a pleasure to coach these girls. And, victory always seems so easy when you look at the scores of games of Cal South teams – for example, our semi-final game against Eastern New York was a good game but we also quite clearly were the better team in all departments. It was also clear that those girls from back East had been in a different environment (weather wise these girls have been buried in snow for weeks.) The Eastern New York players were competitive with us in stages of the game, but once we got into a rhythm of playing controlled soccer all over the park with great ball movement, it was evident they were not going to stay with us. The final score of 3-0 was good, but it could easily have been more.
Our Cal South team had some injuries in that game which did not help. We lost three important players; Danika Bowman from Albion SC because of a bad ankle injury that put her out of the final, Artrea Williams from LA Galaxy due to a knee injury and Antoinette Saldana from Fram FC who was also out.
Saturday was our day off, so it was also a day when boredom is a key factor. These kids are always on the go, so relaxing is not easy for them. We had a light training session, and afterwards, they had study time followed by a trip to the ice-cream parlor. The girls rested mostly, and Saturday night, we had a Cal South group dinner all together with all the other teams from Southern California.
Traveling with my 98 girls were our team manager Kendra Harris and my assistant coach Jaymie Baquero. Fortunately, Harris and Baquero are always keeping our players on their toes.
Sunday proved to be a hectic day. With three girls missing from injuries, it really put an extra strain on our final match. But we were ready to play and nothing was going to stop us. The girls were focused and they wanted it so much. Any coach who has ever been around a group of kids that want it so much knows what I am talking about. We had some many experienced leaders in the team and it was going to happen.
Our opponents were Iowa, some people might thing that State is not super known for soccer, but when we watched them destroy Illinois in the semi/final we knew they were going to be strong opponents, and they were.
They were well organized and played good soccer, and frustrated us a lot. We had to be patient and we were. After a scoreless first half, and a few tactical changes, our Cal South girls really stepped up the level of our play, and started scoring outstanding goals to finish off at 3-0. It was an outstanding finish to a great weekend for Cal South when all three teams won their finals.
The youth soccer Championships we have been able to win in the last few years in every age group has been incredible.
Great credit has to go to Steve and Kathy Hoffman and their great behind the scene staff that keep the wheels turning at events like this. There is no way that this event could be such a success without the Hoffman’s input and experience; they truly make it happen.
Yes, we all know people will say, “You are Cal South and you are expected to win.” What I say in response to that is you still have to play the game, you still have to be motivated to win, no one is going to lie down and let you take it.
Cal South kids at every age group enter every game knowing that the competition is going to fight hard to win. Youth soccer teams from other States believe that when they play one of our Cal South teams, “it is their Cup Final,” even if it is in the early stages of Regional tournaments. There is so much pressure on every kid and coach that represents Cal South in ODP. To deliver another championship victory is very special.
We also had the pleasure of having many of the Cal South Board Members in attendance with us including Cal South President Derek Barraza, Vice President Roy Carlson, our new COO Johnnie Garza, and David Lamb from our State Cup committee, as well as many more people supporting our players and coaches. It was really great to see that kind of support, I am glad we were able to give them three championships.
A trio of second half goals allowed Cal South 98 to defeat Iowa 98 3-0 in the second finals match of the day between the two states, and claim a second straight ODP Championship. Kennedy Smith’s pair of goals in the 48th and 54thminute gave Cal South control and Sunny Dunphy added a third goal minutes before the final whistle to complete the victory.
“This is my third national championships so winning this really means a lot,” Cal South player Daria Petredes said. “We are going to be playing each other in college but you make great friendships, and it is something to talk about when we get older.”
US Youth Soccer ODP was established in 1977 and is the original Olympic development program in the United States. Formed to identify a pool of players in each age group from which a National Team could be selected for international competition, selected players are exposed to the nation’s top coaches from collegiate institutions, U.S. Soccer and the professional leagues. Programs exist in each state and with competitions such as the US Youth Soccer ODP Championships, Interregional Training/Competition, Regional Camps and International play. US Youth Soccer ODP continues to lead the way in elite player identification and development. US Youth Soccer ODP is an approved program of the U.S. Soccer Federation. For more information, visit