Boys Under-12 team wins state title as AYSO Region 18 excels in tournament
The AYSO Manhattan-Hermosa Region 18 Boys Under-12 team capped off an undefeated season Sunday winning the State Championship with a 5-3 victory over Hillsborough at State Farm Sports Village in Bakersfield.
Coached by former L.A. Dodger Eric Karros and Scott Rusher, the boys improved their record to 10-0-1 after a 4-0 shutout of Lompoc and their win in the championship game.
The team reached the state tournament winning the Section 1 championship in Riverside the previous weekend where it eliminated Glendale, Chino and Hollywood Wilshire.
In Area competition, the BU12 team defeated Westchester, North Redondo, South Redondo and Hawthorne.
“This is an amazing group of young men”, said Karros, head coach of the BU12 All Star team. “This is really what AYSO is all about – taking a group of kids that in most cases don’t even know one another, providing the right mix of instruction, mentoring and coaching and giving them the experience of a lifetime. This was one of those magical runs that no one wants to end – not the parent, not us as coaches – and certainly not the boys.”
Team members included George Boll, Jack Crawford, Fitzy Delmonte, Robbie Duchesne, Hudson Fredriksz, Ethan Granados, Liam Hook, Kyle Karros, Aidan Reesing, Kalani Rusher, Luke Sevier and Henry Wedbush.
Kalani Rusher became the third generation in his family to compete in the state tournament. When Scott was young, his father Dave coached his team to a second-place finish.
“Although I have fond memories of going to state, it was much more fun watching my son play,” Scott said. “The talent level was exception and we had no kids on the team that play club soccer.”
Scott said two of the toughest opponents the team faced during the All-State season were El Segundo and Lompoc.
“We beat Lompoc 4-0, but it could easily have been tied,” Rusher said. “They hit the crossbar a few times.”
While Rusher credited the players for their all-out effort, he gave kudos to the head coach.
“Eric was fantastic with the kids,” Rusher said. “We worked very well together but he steered the ship.”
Region 18 also sent its Boys U10 and Girls U12 teams to the state tournament.
The BU10 team defeated Lakewood 1-0 before falling to San Luis Obispo 2-0 in the championship game. The boys from the beach advanced to the state tournament after shutting out all five opponents – Santa Monica, Covina, Phillips Ranch, Alhambra and Chin Hills – to capture the Section 1 title.
Players included Mick Bakos, Aidan Jones, Connor Meidroth, Parker Murray, Cal Porter, Jackson Shea, William Soderlund, Ryan Sprague, Kyle Stepczk and Connor Whalen.
The GU12 team finished third, rebounding from a 1-0 loss to Santa Barbara in the final seconds to win the Consolation Game 4-1 against Belmont/Redwood Shores.
In the Section tournament, the team had impressive wins over Alhambra, South L.A. and Glendale. The girls avenged an earlier loss to La Verne with a 2-1 victory in the championship game.
Members of the Region GU12 team included Morgan Alonso, Meila Bissoondial, Chloe Hartley, Airelle Hershkowitz, Hannah Jackson, Camryn Jones, Pearce Jones, Mia Milewski, Ashley Naylor, Tia Pappas, Ashley Stepczyk and Piper Stevens.
“I am incredibly proud of Region 18’s performance in the Area, Section, and State games,” said Andrew Lelchuk, Regional Commissioner for Region 18. “The entire Board of Directors and I applaud our volunteer coaches and parents and most importantly the children that participate in our program. This validates the vibrancy of the AYSO program here in the South Bay and we look forward to celebrating these kinds of accomplishments in the future.”
Representing Region 34, the Boys Under-13 EXTRA team from South Redondo Beach turned in a strong second-place finish, defeating Camarillo 3-1 before losing a hard-fought 3-2 championship game with Valencia.
“The core group of the team have been playing together for two years,” said Assistant Coach Bob Vogelsang. “They’ve learned to play high quality soccer and play together as a team. They persevered through a tough regular season as they had to play up a division. When they moved back to their own age group the tough work paid off as they steam rolled into the finals. What a great group of players and families to share a fun and successful season with.”
The Region 34 Girls Under-10 squad reached state competition but fell to Lompoc 3-0 and Temple City 2-1.
Girls from Region 10 (Palos Verdes) enjoyed their share of success. The Under-13 team captured the crown with a 3-0 win over Camarillo and a 7-2 victory over North Irvine in the championship game.
The GU11 team fought back after a 2-1 loss to West Garden Grove to win the consolation game edging Pacific Palisades 2-1.
The GU10 team from Region 14 (West Torrance) suffered heartbreaking 1-0 losses to Woodland Hills and Valencia.
The success from South Bay teams was an appropriate finish of the 50th anniversary of AYSO, which was founded in a Torrance garage in 1964 with nine teams.
Today, the national non-profit organization has more than 50,000 teams, nearly 900 leagues, and 500,000 players nationwide. For more information, visit AYSO.org.