Fifth-graders from Fair Avenue Elementary School won first place in the Los Angeles Unified School District's soccer tournament.
The team beat seven schools from across Los Angeles recently and captured the title in a shootout against Santa Monica Elementary School.
"It was such a relief when it was all over," said Hank Amigo, a teacher at the school who has been coaching third-, fourth- and fifth-grade soccer teams there for nine years. "They wanted to win so bad."
The victory in the second annual tournament was the culmination of a strong 14-1 season for the team. In early March, the squad finished in second place in a tournament of 40 San Fernando Valley schools, losing a key game to regional tournament champion Limerick Avenue Elementary School of Canoga Park.
However, the second-place finish was good enough to qualify them for the districtwide competition, in which the top two teams from four regionals competed.
The team cruised through the opening rounds before finding themselves in a 1-1 tie with the Santa Monica squad, forcing a shootout.
"We won because we never stopped playing like a team," Amigo said. "If there's one thing these kids understand, it's teamwork."
For Amigo, the victory was a symbol of the after-school program's success on many levels.
"I heard somewhere that most juvenile crime is committed between 3:30 and 6:30, after these kids leave school and before their parents get home," said Amigo. "I wanted to give these kids another option. They're my buddies."