Slammers capture title

On Saturday, Mason Case spent most of his time icing his hip and thinking about the boys' under-16 title game of the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships.

The Corona del Mar High junior-to-be was thinking about winning another championship ring. He had won a ring with the Sea Kings in the winter season, when the boys' soccer team captured the CIF Southern Section Division IV title.

Now Case has another ring and a golden ball.

He was awarded the Golden Ball for being the most valuable player of the tournament, as he helped the Newport Beach-based Slammers FC win the U16 championship Sunday at Overland Park, Kan.

The Slammers beat RSL Florida, 1-0, in the final.

"It all paid off in the end," Case said of dealing with the hip injury and playing through pain. "I'm going to get another ring. I got my CIF ring. We're going to order this ring too. I'm looking forward to that."

Kyle Chin, who attended Mariners Christian in Newport Beach, scored the game-winner in the 46th minute. Goalies Connor Gaal and Daniel Boyer combined for the shutout.

Gaal, also a CdM player, played goalie in the second half throughout the tournament. He did not allow a goal.

Boyer allowed one goal in the tournament. He was awarded the Golden Glove award, for the best goalie in the tournament, as determined by opposing coaches' votes.

Case and Gaal were two of six members from the CdM boys' soccer team that also won the CIF Southern California Regional Division II title. CdM's Jack McBean, Jack Gorab, Greg Allen and Coach George Larsen also helped the Slammers win the national title.

The Sea Kings, who were ranked No. 2 in the nation by ESPN Rise, had never won postseason titles prior to this year.

"It's really hard to decide," Case said, thinking where to rate the Slammers' championship in a stellar soccer year. "I'm going to have to put the Slammers' championship No. 1, because it's a national championship."

It appeared the Slammers were against the odds to win the championship. They had lost to RSL Florida, 1-0, Friday and they were unsure if Case would be able to play.

But Case returned and Larsen used his past to help the Slammers exact revenge.

Three years ago, Larsen coached a Slammers girls' team that lost in the title match. The girls had beaten Dallas Sting, 3-0, in bracket play, but lost to the Sting, 2-1, in overtime in the final.

"I shared that experience with the boys," Larsen said. "I used one of the things we failed at and said that we could do the same thing that Dallas team did."

It also helped that the Slammers were confident they could win, Larsen said. They played Florida tough on Friday, and believed a victory was within reach.

Still, RSL Florida proved to be the biggest and quickest side the Slammers had faced throughout the tournament, Larsen said.

"We had the boys watch the film [of the loss to RSL Florida] on Saturday," Larsen said. "We went over it and we made some adjustments. It's hard to beat the same team twice. And then you have a team like us that has pride and we have that revenge factor."

— From staff reports

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