AYSO coed team wins tournament

The 16/19u coed Winters AYSO soccer team, coached by Steven Montagna, won its area championship on Saturday, Nov. 12. (Courtesy photo)

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The 16/19u coed Winters AYSO soccer team put the ‘win’ in Winters on Saturday, Nov 12 as they won its area tournament to close out their season. Although it’s the first year an AYSO team like this has come out of Winters, the squad ground out their way to championship gold.

Originally from New Jersey, head coach Stephen Montagna, and his family moved to the Bay Area before settling into Winters six years ago. Since then, he’s been coaching boys AYSO soccer and has gotten to know and watch his players grow year in and year out.

The 16/19u coed Winters AYSO soccer team won its area championship on Saturday, Nov. 12. (Courtesy photo)

This year, however, participation levels for AYSO in the region (Davis, Antelope, Capay/Esparto) weren’t as robust as they’d been in the past. Therefore, the decision was made to combine the older athletes into a 16/19u coed teams — referring to the age range of eligibility being under 19 and under 16.

According to Montagna, some of the athletes and their families were hesitant to have boys and girls playing together on the same field. However, he said the idea gained momentum and as they headed into the tournament there were close to 23–25 players on the roster, which Montagna said is “a lot.”

“It’s funny because it’s Winters — everybody on the team already knows each other, and off the bat, there was already good chemistry. We had a lot of success in the past with both the boys’ and girls’ teams and the skill level was never an issue either,” said Montagna. “It was just maintaining control of practice because it’s a big squad and maintaining their interest because it was a shortened season. As we started to play, it was noticeable our skill level was higher than our competition.”

For Montagna, one of his main focuspoints was making sure there wasn’t always the same group of kids out on the soccer pitch. Rather, he wanted to make sure everybody on the team was making contributions and got the opportunity to play different offensive and defensive positions. It took some time to adjust, but the squad — who never really decided on a name — came together to put W’s all over their record. That was until a skilled Capay/Esparto team humbled them with an emphatic loss.

“They destroyed us in the regular season winning 8–3. It was very uncharacteristic of our team this season. I think that was a wake-up experience for the team because they saw a lot of success in the past and weren’t used to losing like that,” explained Montagna. “Heading into the final tournament, we knew one of the teams we’d face was Capay/Esparto. And the reaction from the kids was, ‘oh we’re going to get creamed’ which was surprising to me because they’re usually very confident.”

In the tournament, the squad played two good teams from Davis they had beaten in the regular season. Montagna said when the Capay/Esparto only beat an Antelope team by one point and the athletes “realized the Capay/Esparto team isn’t invincible, (and) their attitude shifted.”

The tournament operated on a point system, not just wins and losses. Teams would collect points for things like winning and scoring goals and lose points for poor sportsmanship. Whoever had the most points at the end of the tournament would win. As it turns out, the Winters squad faced off against the Capay/Esparto squad, but only needed to tie them in order to win the tournament based on the point totals.

“It was a very tough game and we ended up drawing 0–0. Both teams had their opportunities to score, it was a high-intensity game but there was good sportsmanship on both sides,” said Montagna. “Both teams really wanted to win. So, coming away with a draw and then winning on points was huge for the team. It was a great experience because they felt like they beat a team they never imagined they’d be able to win against.”

While this underdog team contended with nerves and stiff competition, it went out and displayed that never-say-die competitiveness Winters athletes are known for. The end result? Another championship win.

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