South Whidbey Tsunami U12 boys soccer team finished first in the bronze division at the Crossfire Select Cup 2016, held July 22-24 at 60 Acres Park in Redmond.
Tsunami defeated Rush 05’s “A-team” 5-1 in the championship match, avenging an earlier loss to the same team earlier in the tournament. Though Tsunami tied Rush 05’s A-team at 5 with only 30 seconds left in the match, the result left a sour taste in the mouths of the players and coaches.
“It just felt like we weren’t doing our best,” said 11-year-old defender Ian O’Brien. “We all thought we should have not tied the game. We could beat this team, we just have to try our best, put all of our effort into it and we did it.”
The team regrouped and held a 40 minute practice following the match to reorganize its defense. Other than Rush scoring a penalty kick goal off an inadvertent handball, Tsunami dominated the rematch.
“I thought it was very exciting and very fun, since it was pretty much my first time being in the championships,” said Chase Larsen, a 10-year-old midfielder.
Due to rules recently changed in birth-year bracketing by US Soccer, half of Tsunami’s team was playing up in age group. Older kids on the team were moved up to play U-14, while players born in 2006 were pulled from recreation leagues to fill out the roster. The result was a mosh posh of veterans and newcommers.
“We really had the first part of the summer to come together as a team and educate a lot of the younger kids,” said head coach Seth Layman. “Now the older kids, who used to be young, just really stepped up as leaders.”
Despite a strong showing in leadership from the older players and a high level of enthusiasm and willingness to learn from the team as a whole, Layman said the team entered the tournament shaky. To compensate, practices were held in between games to fix nagging issues.
“We’ve just been practicing harder and for longer and just our coaches have been showing us new stuff,” said 11-year-old Cole Tschetter, a goal keeper and striker. “We really wanted to win this tournament.”
History wasn’t on Tsunami’s side. Last year, Tsunami went 2-2. The year before, they finished dead last.
“Half the kids that were part of this victory were part of those losses,” Layman said.
Tsunami opened the tournament with an 8-0 victory over Rush 05. Following the tie against Rush 05’s A-team, Tsunami beat the Issaquah Governors 4-2, and Seattle Celtics 8-4.
In the championship rematch, Larsen struck first blood when he scored in the first six minutes of the match. Layman said the early goal discouraged their opponent.
“From that point on, they didn’t have an answer,” Layman said. “They saw a totally different team that day.”
Layman felt the team’s toughest match of the tournament was the tie to Rush 05’s A-team. During that game, goalkeeper Elijah Dixon was struck in the face with a cleat. He earned the nickname “Jabba the Lip” for the rest of the tournament due to a large hematoma that developed as a result.
Layman said he was also impressed with the team’s independence on the field.
“They weren’t looking to the sidelines to bail them out of anything,” Layman said. “The leaders of the team really organized and ran the match in such a way that their communication was better than any of our competitors’ communication. The boys just took charge.”