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Tahoe Thunder district 6 metro champs

The Tahoe Thunder girls’ U-14 soccer club successfully closed out its 2002 season by stunning CYSA Metro League competitors in the District VI tournament this month. The scrappy 15-girl squad battled through the 54-team event held over two weekends in the Sacramento region to emerge as the final victors over the Greenhaven Arrows of South Sacramento.

On the strength of its 4-2-4 three-month season record, the Thunder was seeded in second place. Despite competing at the “C” level throughout the season, Thunder found itself pitted against higher groups in the second weekend’s interdivision competition. The tournament finally culminated in an showdown with the Greenhaven Arrows, an “A” team.

After dispatching Vacaville United 2-1, then blanking the Fair Oaks Magic 2-0 in the opening round, the Thunder fought the Rancho Cordova Diamonds to a 1-1 tie in day two, setting up an intraflight showdown with their No. 1 archrivals, the Roseville Diamonds, in the division final.



The first half was a dogfight highlighted by the brilliant defensive efforts of Belle Fleming, Brittany McKinnon and Marissa McKool in support of 5-foot-9 Coral Warren’s goalkeeping prowess. The outstanding transitional midfield play of defenders Kelsi Spandau and Kyndal Olin eventually succeeded in producing numerous offensive incursions during the second half. Hillary Santana, Janelle Perasso, Jamie Morris, Becca Kane, Tess Braun, Shayna Butler, Becca Kushner, Jessica Woods and Brandi Vega also played tirelessly in their attack.

With three minutes to play in regulation, Woods delivered a corner kick directly into the offensive/defensive scrum in front of the Diamonds’ goal. In the ensuing scramble, Vega lofted a high volley above and beyond the keeper’s reach to put Thunder in the driver’s seat with scant minutes left in the contest.




Once again, the Thunder’s stingy mid- and backfield defense, which allowed only two goals throughout the entire five-game tournament, stepped up to shut down Roseville’s desperate last-minute attack.

In the final against Greenhaven at the Cherry Island Soccer Complex in Fair Oaks was nothing short of a donnybrook, with the Thunder’s attacks being repeatedly denied by the beleaguered Arrow defense. Despite outshooting the Arrows 6-0, regulation ended in a scoreless tie, bringing a shootout into play.

After Perasso’s successful opening conversion, the Thunder fell behind 2-1 over its next two attempts in the five-shot first round. To remain in contention, it was necessary to nail the next shot. In the No. 4 spot, Hillary Santana stepped up and drilled a missile into the upper-right corner for the 2-2 tie.

After the next Greenhaven shooter failed, Spandau popped an unreachable bullet into the lower left side, putting the Thunder ahead. Now the Arrows were in the hot seat, needing a goal to tie and advance to the second round. But Thunder’s PK goalie Braun didn’t buckle, rejecting a low skidder just in front of the net to cinch the game and District Cup.

Asked about the team’s Thunder-ous success this year, a beaming head coach Paul Kushner said: “Joel Butler and I have worked with these girls for four years now, watching them grow and evolve from their AYSO beginnings. They won their first tournament as U-10s and have gone on to play in eight championships, taking first place honors in six of them.

“I have to credit these young ladies for their dedication and hard play and their families for their strong support,” Kushner added.

Kushner’s squad will compete next month in the Northern California Association Cup, which features 72 of the best 300 club soccer teams in the Northern California region.

Also in the U-14 girls’ youth soccer division, the Tahoe Storm went 7-3 in their first season playing competitive club soccer. They also scored the most goals overall out of 60 teams in their age division. They went on to play in the District VI tournament in the “E” level, winning two games and tying one to move on to the Dec. 7 championships.

At the championships they were once again successful with goals in the first half by Karli Vath and Gina LoCicero. The second half proved just as exciting with a stellar defensive effort and aggressive goalkeeping to take first place.


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