Having a ball

GARDEN GROVE — After a couple of months of six-on-six soccer action, it came down to a title game featuring two Huntington Beach elementary schools.

And after 44 minutes of action Saturday, it’s the Seacliff Sea Stars girls who are headed to Dallas for a little more “futbolito.”

Seacliff, which also included two sixth-graders from Dwyer Middle School, defeated Peterson Elementary, 4-1, in the Los Angeles-area regional finals of the Futbolito Bimbo Stars tournament at Garden Grove Arena Soccer Park.

Seacliff advances to the U.S. national finals this weekend, beginning Friday in Dallas. There, the Seabees will be match up against other regional winners from Chicago, Dallas and Houston.

The international finals are scheduled to begin June 25. All expenses have been paid for by Bimbo.

“It’s going to be really, really, really, really fun,” said Seacliff’s Hailey Stenberg, who scored two goals in the regional final game. Fun is what the tournament has really been all about.

The futbolito concept is based on indoor soccer, which features smaller teams and smaller fields. The tournament has been run in Mexico for the last 19 years as sponsored by Bimbo Bakeries, but this the first year it’s been in the United States. It began with preliminary rounds in March.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to represent your school,” said Seacliff Coach Bobby Bruch of the tournament, which requires that participants be in fourth through sixth-grade and have at least a 2.0 GPA.

“It gives the opportunity for the kids to work on their passing and skill, which helps them as they get older.”

Peterson took the lead early in the girls’ final on a goal by Tatiana Moreno, but Seacliff didn’t quit. Stenberg scored, and the 22-minute first half ended with a 1-1 tie score. Hannah Howell then scored the team’s second goal early in the second, taking a beautiful cross from Stenberg and sticking it in at the right post.

Stenberg scored the game’s final goal, taking McKenna Doe’s pass off the wall with about 10 minutes left in the game.

Goalie Kate Hart helped anchor a Seacliff defense that also included Makenna Wigney, Savannah Knight and McKenzie Elliott.

Wigney, McKenna Doe and twin sister Mikaela all play for the North Huntington Beach Futbol Club, along with Sawyer Koelsch, Rose Kyler and Hailey Babbit of Peterson. Other Seacliff players play for clubs like Beach FC and SC Bayern. But this tournament offered a rare opportunity to play for your school.

“I think it’s really cool,” McKenna Doe said. “Usually elementary schools don’t have soccer team stuff. Mostly it’s middle schools, high schools and college teams, so it was really cool for them to put this together.”

Sawyer Koelsch was also able to smile, even after the loss. She can come back next year, as a sixth-grader.

“[The tournament] was really fun,” she said. “You get to really show your school spirit.”

The Seacliff boys also made it to the regional finals before falling to Minnie Gant of Los Alamitos, 10-3. Alek Gilbreath scored twice and Andy Duong once for Seacliff.


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