COSTA MESA — Samantha Ogawa is one of the top defenders for the Waldorf School of Orange County boys' fifth- and sixth-grade bronze division team.
Don't let the division throw you off. Ogawa is assuredly a girl for Waldorf, along with five of her teammates. She and another girl, Kristina Marran-Fischer, help anchor the back line for Waldorf.
Waldorf plays co-ed at the Daily Pilot Cup, Ogawa said, because it's a really small school. But nobody can tease Waldorf for having girls on its team. The results don't lie.
"It's kind of fun to beat guys," Ogawa said after Waldorf defeated Christ Lutheran, 5-3, in Thursday's pool-play game at the Farm Sports Complex.
Waldorf won its three-team pool and advances to the bronze division semifinals on Sunday.
It was a team effort for Waldorf, which had Kobe Wood, Lars Bloch, Amadeo Gamboa, Chase Jacques and Bobby Oxford-Pope each score single goals. Goalie Sebastian Stirbu also made some big saves, finishing with eight of them.
"I knew it was going to be wild," Waldorf Coach Wolfgang Bloch said. "[Christ Lutheran] has some phenomenal players. I think they actually had better players than we did. But what I said from Day One, my first practice with them, I told them that this is a team sport. There's 11 kids on the field. No matter how good the other team is or how great the players they have, if you play as a team you have better chances of winning. There were no superstars that really stood out. They had the twins attacking, attacking, attacking."
Christ Lutheran's twins, Alex and Chandler Pearce, never stopped running throughout the 50-minute game. They made their mark, each scoring a goal after arriving a few minutes late for the game.
"I was hoping they weren't going to show up," Wood said of his friends' late appearance. "But they did."
Their mother, Coach Jaci Pearce, watched as Alex crossed the ball to teammate Liam Jason, who made a header to knot the score at 1-1 late in the first half. Waldorf's Lars Bloch responded just before halftime, scoring on a free kick from the left for a 2-1 lead.
The score was 3-3 in the waning minutes when Waldorf again went ahead. Pressure by Jacques and Oxford-Pope brought the ball into the Christ Lutheran box, where it bounced out to Gamboa. He found the back of the net with six minutes left, giving Waldorf another advantage.
Oxford-Pope added the final goal just before the game ended.
Last year much of the spotlight in the Pilot Cup went to Wood's older brother, Jeff, who helped lead Waldorf to the semifinals. Now Kobe is the sixth grader and Waldorf is again back in the semis. They'll play at 10 a.m. Sunday at Davis Elementary for a chance to go to the final.
"I want to win really bad," Kobe Wood said. "It's fun, because we're co-ed so we're in bronze. We can just take everyone on and dribble through the whole defense."
Wolfgang Bloch said his team has several players who are trying soccer for the first time, but also experienced club players. Wood and Ogawa both play for Wolfpack, and Lars Bloch for Laguna Niguel.
"Last year they talked so much about it," Wolfgang Bloch said. "So when they got to sixth grade, more kids signed up. Our school is so small they only do a fifth and sixth grade [team], that's it. This [tournament] is such a wonderful thing. It's such a good, friendly competition. You have private schools and public schools, and they all get together and play."
He said Waldorf has never won a championship at the tournament, and to do so would be "completely unbelievable." If Waldorf does, it will get sizable contributions from, yes, the girls to make it happen.
"No," Lars Bloch said when asked if other teams make fun of the co-ed Waldorf squad. "We kind of make fun of them. [The girls] beat them."
Jaci Pearce highlighted the standout play of defender Josh Griffith for Christ Lutheran. Goalies Alex Carpenter and Avery Ferguson both played well.