Playing the U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Region Championships in Hawaii gives quite the home-field advantage for Hawaiian clubs.
Anyone hosting would have the advantage of not needing to travel, but the “wow” factor of being in Hawaii could make it tricky for opponents to focus on the task at hand.
“As we were flying in, we were flying a little bit low and I was thinking this can’t be real. This is amazing,” said Sydney Dennis of Pahrump.
While the distraction of an exotic location at might be a convenient excuse, Las Vegas club teams that included Pahrump Valley High School graduates did struggle on the field.
Downtown Las Vegas SC 00, which included former Trojans Kaitlyn Carrington, Kathy Niles and Vaniah Vitto, had a rough time in Pool D of the under-18 division, losing 7-0, 5-0 and 2-0 to teams from Southern California, New Mexico and Alaska, respectively.
“It was hard,” Niles acknowledged. “We landed on Sunday, and our first game was Monday. In warmups we were clearly distracted the whole time.”
“I do think a lot of us were not focused that much, but once we were in game mode we took it seriously, but not seriously enough,” Carrington said. “Me included, I did lose track of the purpose of being there.”
Dennis’ Players SC 99 Elite team fared a bit better, winning one of three games in pool play and advancing to the under-19 quarterfinals, where they lost 3-2 to the eventual champions from Utah.
“The teams are all very good, obviously, but I think we probably could have done a lot better,” Dennis said. “I don’t think we were expecting the competition to be as good as it was. It was high intensity, every single game that we had.”
The competition crowned 14 regional champions in boys and girls age groups in a tournament that ran June 18-24 at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex in Waipahu, Hawaii. Southern California teams captured nine titles, while the lone Nevada regional champion was the Downtown Las Vegas SC 00 boys, which won the 18U division.
Dennis’ team only had one poor result, a 3-0 loss to Hawaii Rush 00/99 in its second game. The day before, Players SC 99 Elite lost 2-1 to an Alaskan team, and they won their third game 3-1 against a team from Los Angeles. That win earned them a spot in the quarterfinals.
“I think my first game I played really well, but my second game wasn’t super-great,” Dennis said. “Then my third and fourth game were OK. The fourth game was probably equivalent to my first game.
“I think by the end of our last game, everybody was pretty disappointed because we knew that we could have done better. But I think everyone was playing the hardest they could.”
Niles said she and her teammates also believed they should have fared better in Hawaii.
“The first team that we played was very good. They were well put together,” she said. “The second team we definitely should not have lost to. The third team … well, we definitely should have beaten the Alaska team.
“The other teams were really good at finishing, and we had lots of moments of laziness. We kind of went in with the mentality of we’re state champs, we made it. I can’t say we didn’t play hard, but we definitely got caught being lazy.”
Carrington agreed with her teammate’s assessment. “The first team, they were definitely more connected than we were,” she said. “They knew their placement better and where everybody was on the field. The second team, they were able to finish. We had chances to score, but they were able to finish more than us. The third team, that game was very winnable.”
The unfamiliar weather might have played a role. “We had three morning games and then one afternoon game,” Dennis said. “It was very hot and humid. I think that surprised me a little bit. I would put on some sunscreen and then sweat it all off.”
Carrington agreed with Dennis about the humidity, but the weather didn’t get in the way of being in Hawaii on days without a game.
“I definitely loved surfing the most,” Carrington said.
“The first time we had an instructor help us, and the second time we went on the day after soccer and we were able to go by ourselves.
“We went out farther and that was cool, but I couldn’t catch a wave to save my life.”
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“On Thursday, our free day, we took advantage of that and went surfing, and we also went snorkeling,” Niles said. “We then went snorkeling a second time.
“I think the best part of the trip was having all of your closest friends by you and just exploring and having a blast.”
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter:@pvtimes