ATASCADERO — Breaking into the record books, the Atascadero AYSO Soccer U12 All-Star Boys Team battled its way to the Western State Championship as the first AYSO team from Atascadero to represent California in the WSC.
On February 25th and 26th, the team played their way to 1st place in the Section 10 All-Star Playoffs in Bakersfield, Ca. The playoffs included the top 16 AYSO All-Star teams from each age group, from over 70 cities in the section.
“We knew it was a special group,” U12 all-stars head coach Joe Subia said. “We knew from last year that if we kept this group together, it would be even stronger, and it was exactly what it could be.”
Taking first in Bakersfield’s Playoffs, Atascadero outplayed approximately 150 competing all-star teams and over 1500 other all-star players.
“It was the first time an Atascadero team made it out of Area, and that is between Paso Robles and Santa Barbara,” U12 all-stars assistant coach Matt Miranda said. “We won that tournament and then we won sectionals, which is from San Francisco to San Diego. Now this is the first time we are going to the Western States Championships.”
On Saturday, March 25, the boys will play in Nevada against U12 AYSO all-star teams for the title of Western State Champion, which includes the best teams in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Last weekend in Bakersfield, the U12 boys took on tough competitors — Ventura, Quartz Hill, Visalia and Canyon Country before going head to head with fellow Central Coast team, Lompoc U12.
Among wins against Ventura and Quartz Hill, was an intense comeback from a 3-1 score in the fourth quarter to a final 4-4 tie against Visalia to advance onto the semi-finals where they faced Canyon Country.
“We got a little overconfident in our third game,” Subia said. “We were overlooking that team and they came out and punched us in the mouth. We were losing, 3-1, heading into the fourth quarter. The boys put it together, and we tied it up. It was exactly what we needed to do.”
One of the cornerstones of the U12 has become the defense, including first-time goalkeeper Sawyer St. Peter.
“That is one of the weirdest parts of the whole story,” U12 all-stars assistant coach Doug Martin said. “[St. Peter] hadn’t played one minute as a goalie prior to that [tournament].”
St. Peter stepped into the role, and became the last line of defense against offensive strikers who were used to scoring goals — lots of them.
“Sawyer is one of the unsung heroes because goalies don’t usually get as much credit as the goal-scorers do,” Martin said. “I don’t think he made one mistake in five games, and that is really crucial to have the security to have a capable goalie.”
Escaping against Visalia was a wakeup call for the team, and they needed to play flawlessly as they faced the top-ranked team in the tournament.
“Going into the semifinals, we played Canyon Country from Santa Clarita, and it was one of the best teams I’ve seen at that level,” Martin said. “They were well-rounded, smart, and did everything right. We shut them out, figured out who their weapons were, and took them into overtime and won penalty kids 5-4. They didn’t expect that from us.”
Canyon Country was the No. 1 seed in the tournament headed into Bakersfield and Atascadero took them head-on and prevailed with a 5-4 victory in an intense penalty kick shoot-out following a 0-0 score into double overtime.
In the finals, Atascadero took on Lompoc, which was a welcome opportunity to rematch the team that has given Atascadero a run for its money.
The key to success against Lompoc was the Atascadero defense, but it was the unstoppable foot of Skyler Silva that gave Atascadero the win. In the first 6:00 of the game, Silva had erupted for three goals, scoring from all over the field.
“It was pretty insane,” U12 player C.J. Bell said. “Skyler has a really big foot, but he doesn’t use it that much. He just came out and was taking shots from deep, and was making them.”
Getting the lead came relatively easy against a team they struggled with previously. Holding the lead meant putting the clamps on the Lompoc scorers and testing the defense they had come to rely on.
“We know that Lompoc is a team to come back,” U12 player Maddox Subia said. “The end score was 3-1, and when we scored the three, we just tried to lock our defense. We were happy we scored, and tried to lock our defense to secure it.”
Through the All-Star season, Atascadero went up against Lompoc twice, with a record of one win and one loss.
In the Sectionals, Atascadero held on and took first place by beating Lompoc 3-1, to advance the Western State Championships.
“That was insane,” Bell said, “we all rushed the field and rushed Skyler and everyone. It was amazing.”
Working with a much smaller talent pool than some of the communities they play against, the Atascadero U12 team leaned on its strengths, and improved over time.
“It started out being offensive, and we had no concept of defense,” Subia said. “Now as the season progressed, we have instilled a strong defensive philosophy. I’d say that is our strength now. We are holding teams we normally wouldn’t to zero.”
The Western State Championship is scheduled for March 25 and 26 in Carson City, Nevada. In the meantime, Subia, Martin, and Miranda are continuing to train the team and prepare for the upcoming championship which gives them a shot at playing at the national level. The coaches, teams, and their families are preparing to make the trip to Carson City.
The players could not be more proud of what they are accomplishing together.
“When we went to Bakersfield, our coach told us we were the first boys all-star team to make it this far,” Maddox Subia said. “We made up a chant and started saying ‘who, who, who, who, who, who,’ and I said ‘Who are we? A-Town. Who are we? A-Town.’”
The team is riding high, and practicing in advance of the trip to Carson City.
“We are all really excited,” Maddox Subia said. “We are the first team to move on to Bakersfield. It lets us know how good we really are, and that hard work pays off. We work really hard.”
The kids are practicing hard, and the parents are also working hard. The cost of making the trip is high for young working and single parents. In order to offset costs, the team is fundraising.
Sponsorships or donations to help offset tournament and travel fees are welcomed by the team. Go to gofundme.com/atascadero-allstars-boys-u12 for more information on helping the team make their way to the championship.