Unselfishness pays off for San Diego Surf U12 girls team in Far West Regional Championships

Melanie Barcenas, Melissa Tatar, Ava Gaida, Sophia Carter, Ava Paolini, Charlotte Morton, Journey Middleborn, Alyssandra Faus-Deguzman, Ava Rose Stevens, Charli Young, Ava Sherrer, Ava Harrison

It helps to have talent and depth. World class training facilities don’t hurt, either.

But what set the San Diego Surf U12 girls team apart from the competition was an unselfish attitude that carried over from their practices into high-pressure tournament play.

The Surf culminated an amazing season with a 2-1 victory over Legends Football Club of Chino in the 2019 Far West President’s Cup championship game at SilverLakes Sports Complex in Norco on June 16.

“When you’ve got this special talented group of kids, it’s hard to not go ‘I want to be the big fish … I want to get all the credit,’” Surf coach Craig Barclay said. “Their selflessness and their commitment to each other is massively important.”

The Surf went 5-0-1 in the tournament, which began on June 11.

Melanie Barcenas scored both Surf goals in the championship game.

The Surf defeated Legends Inland Empire of San Bernardino 3-0 on June 14 in a quarterfinal in which Barcenas scored two goals and Alyssandra Faus-Deguzman scored one goal.

Barcenas scored two goals and Ava Paolini and Ava Harrison each had one goal in a 5-0 semifinal victory over Real Colorado the next day.

Barcenas led the team with 13 goals in the tournament.

Ava Stevens scored three goals in the tournament, Harrison had two, and Charlotte Young, Melissa Tatar and Journey Middleborn had one goal.

Defenders Ava Gaida, goalie Charlotte Morton, and midfielders Ava Sherrer and Sophia Carter made key contributions too.

“Again, this is such a special group of girls who all contribute to the success of the team, and all deserve to have individual praise,” Barclay said. “Mel had an unbelievable tournament scoring some unbelievable goals on the way to her tally of 13 goals, including two in the final! But at the same time, the support and ability of her teammates allow Mel the freedom to be able to do achieve this. Therefore, we all share the success and accolades together as a whole team.”

Barclay has made team-building a focus of the development process. Between games in the tournament, the team went bowling, visited movie theaters and had beach parties. The team took a limo ride home after winning the championship.

The camaraderie on and off the field has helped the players push each other to excel.

“That’s really why they’re so special,” Barclay said. “They’re unique. They’re so talented, but then they push themselves and they look after each other.”

The players have some history too, with the core of this group playing together on Surf teams that have won four straight state cups.

Next year, they’ll be part of the Surf’s U13 team that will be eligible to play for a national championship.

The Surf, considered one of the nation’s most prestigious soccer clubs, have won 11 national titles.

There’s already a buzz about this team, Barclay acknowledged.

“Of course, anyone who comes to Surf wants to add and be a part of Surf’s history,” Barclay said. “I definitely think that’s an expectation they should have. If it happens next year, brilliant, but that isn’t necessarily our focus.

“We want to develop the kids and winning is a by-product of development. Of course everyone wants to achieve and do their best, and they would be excited with the opportunity to do so, but at the same time as a club we want to keep them a little bit humble, keep them grounded and understand that the hard work, that’s what’s going to achieve it.”

“That said, this is a special group. They’ve won (state) four years in a row, and they’ve got a chance a chance to win the whole thing next year.”

Barclay acknowledged the unpredictable nature of sports makes it difficult to predict outcomes that far out. In a sport like soccer, in which any team can have a bad day, the best teams don’t always win.

But he believes the team has established a culture that should serve it well.

“I think the biggest thing is that they’re all so special and unique,” Barclay said. “They all bring something totally different to the table, be it a mindset, a really positive attitude, an energy or whether they’re technically brilliant, they’re strong or they’re fast. Whatever it is, whether it be as a person or as a soccer player, they’re all so different and unique, so it allows them to do so many different things. I think that’s one of the bigger things compared to some of the other teams I’ve coached.”