Youth Soccer: Big weekend for Blues girls

The only big tournament the Southern California Blues Under-12 girls hadn't won was the Surf Cup.

In their first tournament as Under-13s, five Newport Beach girls helped the Blues take care of that.

Lily Shea, Megan Chelf, Jen Alvarado, Emily Mickelsen and Nikki Senske are on the Blues team that won the prestigious Surf Cup in San Diego last weekend. The Blues defeated the Dallas Sting, 2-0, in the final on Monday at the San Diego Polo Club.

It was a big weekend for the team's coaches, brothers Greg and Matt Baker, also of Newport Beach. They also helped lead the Blues' current Under-12 girls to the Surf Cup title. Both teams also claimed the 2014 State Cup title.

Newport Beach resident Avery Doherty, a forward, and Costa Mesa resident Maya Nadeau, a defender, contributed for the winning Under-12 team.

"This tournament is harder to win than State Cup," Matt Baker wrote in an email. "The top eight in SoCal, state champs from other top states and the best teams in the country are here. You have to knock all of these teams out in three days. Six games in three days takes a toll on the body, and you need every single player to step it up and do their part, which they did."

The Under-13 girls finished with 11 goals four, one against and five shutouts.

They opened the tournament with a 1-1 tie against Leahi, Hawaii, making the next two group games must-win affairs. They defeated the USA Stars of Northern California, 2-0, in the second game, with Senske and Isabella D'Aquila of Orange scoring the goals. Then, in the final group game, the Blues beat rival West Coast FC of Mission Viejo by the same score, as Jordyn Gather of Mission Viejo and D'Aquila scored goals.

The quarterfinals were against the Blues' sister team, Blues Kale, and ended up as yet another 2-0 win, behind goals from Gather and D'Aquila.

Regional rivals Legends FC awaited in the semifinals. The teams had played in New Mexico at the U.S. Youth Soccer Region IV Championships in June, a tournament the Blues also won in the Under-12 age group.

"We had watched film on our game vs. Legends in New Mexico so we could change tactics and make adjustments in the semifinal," Matt Baker said. "Everything worked out perfect, as our new formation and game plan couldn't have worked out better. We had some great combination play and our defensive work rate was off the charts!"

Senske and D'Aquila scored second-half goals to give the Blues girls another 2-0 win and bring them back to the Surf Cup final, where they had made it in 2012 before falling in penalty kicks.

"That was fresh on their minds going into the 2014 final vs. one of the biggest club teams in the country, Dallas Sting," Matt Baker said. "Dallas had just beaten the defending champions [Eagles of Southern California] 3-0 in the semifinal earlier that day and were catching steam. The final was just a classic battle of hard hits, lots of energy and kids just giving it their all."

D'Aquila scored a penalty kick to give the Blues a 1-0 halftime lead, then scored again on a counterattack with about eight minutes left for an insurance goal.

Midfielders Chelf, Alvarado and Mickelsen, along with Shea (left defender), also contributed for the winners.

Doherty and Nadeau were big contributors for the Under-12 girls, who finished with 21 goals for and just one against. They defeated Slammers, 1-0, in the quarterfinals, and host San Diego Surf, 4-0, in the semifinals. In the final, they edged Arsenal of Southern California, 2-1.

"Avery had the first goal in the semis vs. Surf and an assist," Matt Baker said. "Maya shut down the Arsenal attack as we held them to their lowest scoring game of the tournament, one goal."

Baker said the U12 and U13 teams, in their last 60 competitive games together combined, have won every tournament they have entered and haven't lost a game.

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