The artificial turf at the Bartholomew Sports Park in Elk Grove might as well have belonged to The Corral at Oakdale High on Saturday, because the Under-12 Oakdale United Strikers youth soccer team brought the CYSA Association Cup home to Oakdale.
The Strikers overcame a 1-0 deficit to the West Sonoma County Cyclones with three consecutive scores and rallied behind terrific defense to capture a 3-2 victory in the championship game of the CYSA Cup Tournament.
“We picked up the energy in the second half and we finished it off,” Oakdale United coach Bob Crossman said. “We preached parent and player commitment from the beginning of the season and it paid off in the biggest way.”
The tourney capped an incredible journey for a team that first banned together in March of 2011 and stayed together despite a rocky start that tested the toughness of the entire program.
Nearly a year later, resolute play from United defenders and savvy footwork from Strikers forwards propelled the team to dominant District 8 victories during the regular season and consecutive wins to open the Cup Tournament. They edged the Roseville Blazers in a 1-0 quarterfinal and willed past Mission SF in a penalty kick shootout in the CYSA semifinals a day later.
On Saturday, the season culminated with a CYSA Cup championship for the first such honor for a local team in youth soccer history. The team finished first in a pool of teams that range as far south as Tulare and as far north as Humboldt.
“When the season started, there were a lot of doubts out there that this team that had never played together (could) do anything this season,” Crossman said. “We just had a good group of parents and kids and they did all the work to make it easy for us.”
The doubts were understandable considering the United Strikers opened the season with five consecutive losses and a tie. Then the team suddenly started winning big tournament games and rallied to go 31-4-1 in their next 36 contests. The team outscored opponents 140-28 across that span and showed some of the skills that would propel them to consecutive postseason victories.
The Cyclones appeared determined to bring the Strikers crashing back to earth in the CYSA title game, but couldn’t keep Alex Zamora from crashing the net with a game tying score with 10 minutes to play in the first half. Zamora gave Oakdale the lead with a goal to start the second half and saw teammate Omar Gutierrez make it 3-1 after a penalty kick score went to the top right corner of the net.
The Cyclones proved resilient by scoring with five minutes to play, but Oakdale kept the ball on the opposite half of the field and dominated possession in the final moments to seal the win. Goaltender Daniel Dubiel played another terrific game in the goal, and relied on the outstanding defensive play of Eric Moses, Mykel Jaramillo, Nathan Richardson, and Jack Crossman.
Midfielders Nolan Rockwell, Connor Tipton, CJ Glow, Edson Reyes, Dayne Sturtevant, Hunter Weiglein and Miguel Casillas manned a rotation that decided ball control for most of the game.
Their savvy kicks up field provided opportunities for the likes of forwards Zamora, Gutierrez and Carson Frazee.
Crossman said his entire roster scored this season and played a role in the team’s 151-42 scoring advantage over opponents. Callum Lester and Mark Weiglein are assistant coaches on the team.
The United coaches say the team will take a little rest after their championship run, and soon begin preseason preparation for the 2012-13 season. Players interested in joining the program can call Crossman for details on upcoming tryouts. Crossman can be reached at 209-605-5624.