San Diego Surf BU12 Academy to Represent Cal South at Far West Regionals
After the team’s success at National Cup – the next step is competing at US Youth Soccer’s Far West Regionals
Every year the best teams in each state compete in regional tournaments to determine the representatives to the US Youth Soccer National Championships, the pinnacle of youth soccer. In 2014, the honor of representing Cal South at the BU12 level in Region IV goes to San Diego Surf SC Boys Academy I under the direction of coach Steve Hill. Playing dominating soccer throughout the tournament, which included 40 teams from throughout Southern California, the team scored 25 goals against only surrendered one – including an amazing 19-0 run in bracket.
“A lot of people say we have a very, very stingy defense that doesn’t allow a lot of goals, but we also have a good midfield and up top, we score a lot of goals. We’re a well-rounded team,” said Hill. “Some teams may have a weak link somewhere, but I don’t see us having any weak links anywhere. We’re strong in every department. People may not know this, but we only have 13 players on the squad at the moment.”
Surf SC proved that right out of the gate, as they opened the tournament with a 6-0 win over Strikers FC-SC B12 Black in Lancaster on Saturday, February 22. The next day the team continued to dominate, defeating Carlsbad Wave F.C. BU12 Black 5-0. Stormy weather postponed the final bracket games for a week, but when they returned to the pitch on Saturday, March 8, Surf picked up where they had left off with a 6-0 win over La Esperanza. Their biggest challenge came on the final day of bracket when they battled perennial power FC Golden State B12 PDA 02 to an eventual 2-0 victory.
“I always tell the kids the toughest part of the tournament is getting out of bracket,” said Hill. “The nerves can get the better of you, or one goal against you, or not scoring enough goals can eliminate you. I’m always about first getting out of bracket, and then taking the single-elimination games one at a time.”
After handling bracket competition, Surf SC’s BU12 team turned their attention to just that – one game at a time through the knock-out rounds.
On March 15 they returned to Lancaster, CA to take on LA Galaxy Academy South, who had gone 3-1 in bracket to finish second to United Futbol Club B01 Black. In a thrilling Round of 16 match, which saw a heroic double-save by Surf goalkeeper Carlos Zuniga, Hill’s boys held on for a 2-0 win. The weekend concluded with the defeating LA Football Academy (LAFA) BU12 Black 2-1 in the Quarter-Finals, the only goal scored against the team in the entire tournament.
The competition moved to Rancho Capistrano for the final weekend of play, as Surf SC took on coach Lloyd Bigg’s Real So Cal White BU12 team in a Semi-Final match. In a tightly-contested game, the boys from San Diego were able to hold on for a 1-0 victory and a ticket to the finals against LA Galaxy Academy B12 North on Sunday, March 23. The final match was again another edge-of-your-seat battle, with both defenses holding their opponents scoreless through halftime. Finally, Surf SC managed to push through for a goal in the last few minutes of regulation play to win the Cal South championship.
“Our team’s goalie is Carlos, who is phenomenal, and I get comments from other coaches about him all the time,” an understandably proud Hill said. “I think our defense truly believes that if they get beat, Carlos is going to save them – and he’s proved that on so many occasions.”
The team’s defense calls themselves the Fab Five – you have to get through the four defenders first and then battle Carlos to score a goal. While the rest of the players have yet to create nicknames for their positions, this is a team with a lot of personality and players who are extremely dedicated to the passionate game of soccer.
“There are two saves that stick out in my mind, although I know there are others,” Hill continued. “One was against LA Galaxy Academy South, which was phenomenal. We were up 1-0, and if it had gone in, Galaxy could have gotten the momentum and turned around and beaten us 2-1. It was a great double-save, as well. Then on Sunday, in the final match for National Cup, the defense got beat, and Carlos was there one-on-one with the striker.”
“Congratulations to the boys and girls that won National Cup this weekend,” said Surf Director Colin Chesters, who had the pleasure of watching both the BU12 Academy and the Surf Girls Academy U13 bring home trophies. “The two teams and coaches both had outstanding seasons that were very similar. They started off their seasons by winning San Diego’s prestigious Surf Cup, won their respective top flight divisions of the Southern California Developmental Soccer League (SCDSL) league and did well in California Regional League (CRL). They used any setbacks as learning experiences as they went into National Cup this past month.”
The accolades for winning National Cup did not come just from the Surf SC family. Hill related that after the game coaches from several other clubs came up to him and to the players to congratulate them on the victory. “When we walked off the field we had Galaxy coaches congratulating us,” he said. “The BU13 Pateadores coach, who was going on to play FC Golden State, patted me on the back and said, ‘You’ve got a great team there.’”
Wayne Harrison said, “Having beaten LA Galaxy South previously, we met LA Galaxy North in the final. A very tight game though I believe Surf dominated possession. We won the match 1-0 with a goal to win the championship by Mateo. Well done to Steve Hill and his players.”
Now Surf SC will move on to the US Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on June 16-22. This will be a new challenge for the players, many of whom have never been outside of Southern California. The team also has a big legacy to uphold – out of 272 Far West Regional championships from 1997 through 2013, Cal South teams have brought home 56 percent. Surf SC will look to continue the trend. “We are looking forward to playing against the best teams out there, the winners from each state and playing six games in seven days,” said Hill.
“Great job, Coach Hill,” said Chesters. “It is not easy to have the type of success you have had this season. Good luck in Regionals.”
Once Far West Regionals conclude, several members of the team will be flying to Europe as part of the Surf International team that will compete in the 2014 IberCup in Estoril, Portugal, and the 2014 Donosti Cup in San Sebastián, Spain.
We’re proud of our accomplishment, and proud as well to be number one in Cal South,” said Hill. “How can you not be proud to represent Southern California? That’s an achievement in itself.”
Images courtesy of Cal South.