Pilot Cup: Whittier cruises to win

COSTA MESA — It's a pride thing for Jason Ayala.

Ayala played for Whittier Elementary in the Daily Pilot Cup years ago, and now the Newport Harbor High sophomore is in his first year coaching for Whittier. One of the best players for this year's Whittier girls' fifth- and sixth-grade bronze division team is Ayala's younger sister, Katherine.

"Especially since it's my sister's team, it feels pretty good coaching," said Jason Ayala, who coaches the team with fellow Harbor sophomore Jason Arroyo and Estancia sophomore Stephanie Madrigal. "I'm glad to coach this team. I represented them when I was younger, and now I represent them as a coach."

Whittier's bronze team has made Ayala look good so far in the tournament. The latest result was a 5-0 victory over Waldorf School of Orange County on Friday afternoon at Jack Hammett Sports Complex.

Whittier is tied with Rea atop of Pool D with one pool-play game remaining. Whittier plays Lincoln in its final pool-play game at 9 a.m. Saturday.

It was easy to see Whittier's talent on Friday. Whittier scored all five of its goals in the first 12 minutes of the game. Alondra Mancilla scored in the very first minute, and Jacquie Cervantes added a goal just two minutes later.

After Katherine Ayala played the ball into the box, Mancilla scored again in the fifth minute and it was 3-0, Whittier. Ayala then scored her first goal and Cervantes added another, and Whittier was cruising.

"We're gonna do good," said Whittier center defender Brianna Coyotzi of her team's chances in the tournament. "We can get first place."

Another key player was for Whittier was Araceli Manriques, a wing player who has the nickname of "Messi" on the team. Jason Ayala said Manriques has the nickname that references Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi because she's a good dribbler.

"It was a good game," Manriques said. "It was pretty easy, but a little hard at some points. I really enjoyed it."

Whittier's coaches were well aware that their team would be penalized if their final margin of victory was more than five goals. Whittier didn't shoot the rest of the game.

"I guess it was pretty easy to move my defense up and keep my strongest players in the back, so no goals would be scored," Jason Ayala said. "I put my goalie up top to not risk anymore goals, and that was very strategic."

Waldorf also never gave up. Goalie Lulu Forsum was busy in the first half, making four saves. Samantha Bell and Zabel Kerivan combined for three saves in the second half for Waldorf, and defender Sabrina Castro made some booming kicks to get the ball out of danger.

After the game Katherine Ayala tried to dump some water on her older brother. She got him a little, but Jason reminded her that she couldn't really do that until they won the championship.

The older Ayala likes his team's chances of advancing far.

"I think we have a good chance of being champions," he said. "We played the hardest team our first game, which was Rea, and we tied. I'm pretty confident."


Twitter: @mjszabo

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