As the Daily Pilot Cup youth soccer tournament enters its third decade, Ryan Baker still plays a key role.
The former longtime Costa Mesa Rea Elementary coach helped the Sharks win nine titles in 10 years in the boys’ fifth- and sixth-grade Gold Division. This year Baker is coaching his twin sons, Hayden and Landon, in the same division for Newport Beach Mariners.
Baker said he teaches physical education at Mariners as well as at Corona del Mar Lincoln, and Lincoln just happened to be the Marlins’ quarterfinal opponents Saturday morning at Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex.
Mariners players laughed at Baker after the match.
“Are you scared to go back to school [at Lincoln]?” one asked, as his teammates laughed. “They’ll probably try to beat you up.”
Baker just smiled. Before he returns to work at Lincoln, he has more work to do with Mariners at the Pilot Cup.
Mariners outlasted Lincoln 5-4 in penalty kicks after the teams played to a scoreless draw through 60 minutes of regulation. Mariners plays Newport Beach Andersen in a semifinal match Sunday at 10:30 a.m. The title match is at 2:30 p.m.
Will Price, Hudson Reynolds, Landon Baker and Beckham Dutcher each scored in penalty kicks for Mariners, which took a 4-3 lead over Lincoln into the final kick. Lincoln goalkeeper Giovanni Misirovic got his hands on Dutcher’s shot, but it still went in.
After Mariners’ fifth penalty kick went off the crossbar and Brogan Glenn converted for Lincoln, however, a sixth player was needed.
Tommy Oltmans converted for Mariners, and the Lincoln attempt went over the goal.
Gavin Guy made one save in the shootout for Mariners, and that was enough for the Marlins to move on. His teammates mobbed him after it ended, chanting his first name.
“Of all the people that were stressed out, it wasn’t Gavin,” Ryan Baker said. “He doesn’t get stressed. He doesn’t play soccer at all; he’s just an athlete. He plays baseball and basketball and football. He’s an incredible athlete, and that’s why he’s playing goalie for us. He’s got incredible hands, and he doesn’t have a clue how to play. He’ll tell you. Starting in third grade, we put him in goal, and he’s been there ever since.”
Gavin Karam, Benjamin Nonna and Sean Roberts also converted in penalty kicks for Lincoln.
The match was testy throughout, though it produced no cards. Mariners played the aggressor early, with Misirovic needing to make five of his six saves in the first half.
Lincoln had a couple of good chances in the second half, most of them created by Karam. His pass ahead to Rodrigo Fabregas in the 50th minute was dangerous, but Guy swallowed up the ball.
Khalid Kassab, Roberts, Glenn and Kevin Ochoa were key defenders for Lincoln, which also got contributions from Elias Pernistino, Elias Singer, Brooklyn Adams, Chase Zaun and Daniel Evans.
“It was a very competitive game, and when you have very competitive games like this, there’s a lot of aggression out there,” Lincoln coach Sean Roberts said. “The kids are very physical. When our kids are physical and their kids are physical, everybody has a bias. You think there’s a foul here, the ref did this, the ref did that.
“Unfortunately we walk away with a loss and the tournament is over. This is my fifth or sixth year coaching, because I coached my older son [Bryce] too. This is one of the most fun events that the elementary schools have, and I hope this continues. This is a blast.”
Hayden and Landon Baker, as well as Tommy Oltmans and Luke Zumont, provided the defense for Mariners. Tate Oyler, Luke Csergei, Jack Csergei, Will Oltmans, Owen Wrubel and Tristan Willis also contributed. Oyler had a shot glance off the top of the crossbar near the end of regulation.
Mariners moves on, but Ryan Baker does have to go back to Lincoln eventually.
“It’s hard coaching against kids you know,” he said. “I like all of those kids; they’re all good kids. I’ve been doing this for 20 years now, Pilot Cup, so I’ve been coaching against students forever. It’s pretty crazy.”
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