It is the 50th anniversary of the American Youth Soccer Organization, better known as AYSO, and part of that celebration is the organization’s bi-annual national tournament. An All-Star team from Oro Valley will be competing in the event over the Fourth of July weekend.
The Region 922 Tempest were one of several local teams entered into a lottery to compete at nationals, and they were selected. Competing in a national tournament is special enough, but the anniversary celebration is even better.
“This is a little extra special because it is the 50th anniversary of the creation of AYSO,” said Coach Chris DeSimone, who coaches the team along with Lawrence Brady.
The team is an all-star team made up of the two U14 teams in Region 922. The two teams competed against other AYSO teams from all over the area, but their only losses were to each other.
“From the beginning we practiced together even though we had the two teams,” DeSimone said. “When we got the travel team the plan from the beginning was to practice together so we could learn each other’s players.”
That closeness showed up on the pitch. DeSimone’s squad got the best of Brady’s by a single goal in the regular season, the lone loss by either team. Then in the AYSO postseason tournament the two teams tied, but eventually met in the championship game. This time, Brady’s team got the win, also a one-goal game. The team that practiced together played each other perfectly even.
“It was cool,” Caitlin Brady said of the joint practices. “It is interesting because of the way we interacted, when we played against each other we knew what the play would be.”
They picked the best players off of each team for the travel team and began practicing together in December. They competed in most of the big local tournaments like the Ft. Lowell Shootout and got better every time.
“We knew of six, seven, eight girls that were solid players,” Brady said. “The other players have really developed into wonderful players. The AYSO philosophy is player development and they have developed into wonderful players. Their coaches from years past would not recognize them now because of how they have improved.”
An interesting aspect of the team is that they represent nearly every school in the Oro Valley area. Every high school, including Canyon Del Oro, Ironwood Ridge, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy and even Basis, is either already represented or will be next year.
All of the players were standouts on their middle school teams, and goal tender Hailey Hutchins made a few starts at the end of the year for CDO.
They are also a smart bunch.
“Most of them are all honor students,” Brady said. “Almost everyone spent either the whole year or part of the year on the honor roll.”
Those smarts translated to the field, where the team took readily to coaching and new tactics.
“We show them things and they pick up on them really quick,” Brady added.
Although the team is made up of a dozen teenage girls, the team has a serious lack of drama, much to their coaches’ delight.
“We have no drama,” said DeSimone. “Between them they have no drama, there is zero drama. They are really good teammates. There can be drama on their school teams so we are kind of a refuge that they can play good soccer.”
The tournament is in Long Beach/Torrance, Calif., the birth place of AYSO and will be played at the Long Beach Field of Dreams. There will be an anniversary celebration and a trip to watch the LA Galaxy of the MLS before they start playing two games a day.
The team is going to win, but also want to have fun. There is at least one trip to the beach planned, though DeSimone hinted that more could be in the works. A good number of the girls on the team have never been to the beach or in the ocean.
The team hopes to mix business with fun.
“We’d like to go to the finals,” Caitlin said. “We really just want to play our best in the games.”
This is not the last hurrah for the team. They got permission to form a club team, albeit one sponsored by AYSO, to compete against the best club teams in Arizona.
“If you don’t do that, parents want their kids to play better competition. If you want to retain them a little longer, then you need to do this,” DeSimone said.
Looking ahead is okay, but for now, club soccer and school soccer are taking a backseat. It may be AYSO’s birthday, but the Tempest want to crash the party and take their present back to Arizona.