By Gideon Rubin
It immediately became apparent to Jackie Friedman that this was no ordinary club soccer championship game when she noticed sponsor boards surrounding the field. The fresh cut grass and wall-to-wall television cameras clinched it.
The Del Mar Surf under 17 club team recently played in the Elite Clubs Team National Championship in front of a nationally televised audience. The Surf’s 1-0 victory over Player Development Academy, a team based in Westhampton N.J., was broadcast on ESPN.
The Surf, a longtime regional power, was making its first appearance in an elite national tournament. All but two of its players have committed to or have offers from Division I colleges.
“It was really cool,” Friedman said. “A lot of people at home were watching and they congratulated me.”
The Surf traveled to Aurora, Colo., for the eight-team tournament.
“Everyone on our team that I talked to said the same thing,” Friedman said. “When we went there we had one outcome on our minds, that was the only outcome that was possible and that’s what we did.”
Stephanie Hamilton (Coronado High) scored the game’s only goal off an assist from Torrey Pines standout Alexandra Bailey in the 80th minute.
Hamilton, who has standing offers from Brown and Columbia, was among six local players who have accepted or received offers from Div. I colleges.
Torrey Pines’ Alexandra Bailey (Texas A&M), Olivia Buechler (Michigan), Nicole Sherwin (Northern Arizona) and Laura Liedle (Stanford), and Cathedral Catholic’s Kendall Kraus (Dartmouth) are the others.
“It’s our first year and it’s been great,” Chesters said. “The competition was fantastic.”
The elite soccer club tournament is designed to attract maximum college exposure, Surf coach Colin Chesters said.
“We proved that we’re the best team in the country, and at the same time we’re helping our kids get an opportunity to be seen by college coaches,” Chesters said of what his team accomplished in the Rocky Mountains.
The championship game featured a late scare, with a PDA hitting the crossbar with a potential game-tying shot in the last minute.
“Your heart was in your mouth the whole time,” Chesters said.
“We played well in the final, and then when we scored we sat in a little bit trying to protect it. It might not have been what we needed to do, maybe we should have gone after the second goal, but because there was so little time left we decided to sort sit in and they threw bodies forward and got one across the crossbar.”
But while winning the championship was a thrill, the trip to Colorado evoked mixed emotions, with half of the players off to colleges next year leaving a team that’s more or less existed in its current form since most players were in third grade. “We were all extremely happy, but it was a little bit bittersweet,” Friedman said. “Some of us have been together for like 10 years and we’ve seen these girls twice a week, three times a week, for all those years so we’re all really close.
“It was sad but it was also really, really exciting.”
In a championship game that featured two uniquely talented programs, the Surf’s camaraderie figured prominently in the title game, Friedman said.
“I think it had everything to do with it,” she said, noting that the friendships forged on an off the field enabled the Surf to play a more cohesive and unselfish game.
“With the style we play, you need to be able to connect and establish a rhythm with the players you’re playing with and you have to know the players that you’re playing with for it to work out as well as it does,” Friedman said.
Friedman is an incoming Torrey Pines senior who has standing offers to play at Columbia and Brown but is undecided between the two.