It’s been quite a remarkable season for the Valencia 19U AYSO girls soccer team. The squad won the Area 10 Championship, which includes all Santa Clarita Valley AYSO teams, and then claimed the Section 10 title in November of 2018.
The team concluded its season on July 14 at the Volcano International Soccer Tournament in Hilo, Hawaii, where they played four games against three Hawaiian teams in three days.
Though Valencia fell in the championship game to Chicas 19U, it was a memorable experience for all the players, especially for the eight players who recently graduated high school and are moving on from the team.
“It was a great experience to end the season in Hawaii. Not many people get the opportunity to take a trip there, let alone play their favorite sport in such a beautiful place, so we are definitely blessed with what we have,” said Brooke Chambers, who also played at Saugus High School. “We had a strong season all together starting back in August last year, and to have as much success as we have had is amazing.”
“Honestly, this whole experience was the most magical three years of my whole life. I will treasure every high and low and everything in between with this amazing team,” said Ariann Landaverde, a West Ranch grad. “Every day I woke up and couldn’t believe I was with my favorite people playing on an island. We got to do once in a lifetime things together like jump off a gigantic rock, hold seahorses, and swim with sea turtles, and of course play soccer together one last time on a beautiful island. It was honestly surreal the whole time.”
Along with Chambers and Landaverde, Toni Walcott, Megan Gardner, Gisselle Pilar, Maddie Aguilar, Jasmine Tapia and Alexis Chambers all graduated this year.
The team was able to enjoy themselves both on and off the field in Hawaii, including a four-day vacation in Kailua-Kona before the start of the tournament.
However, when they hit the field they played with a purpose, winning two out of three games in pool play.
Valencia 19U relied on its staunch defense consisting of Wendy Mojica, Gardner, Pilar and Walcott in goal. They allowed just two goals combined in the two tournament victories.
“During our regular season we only allowed eight goals all season, in our finals up in section we didn’t allow a goal against us,” said head coach Dave Chambers. “Our defense is fantastic with Wendy, Megan and Gisselle and Toni in the back, those four absolutely stand out.”
In the championship game, Valencia faced off against Chicas 19U, a team that beat them in pool play 3-0.
Valencia wasn’t able to stop Chicas, who won 6-0 in the final and only gave up one goal the entire tournament.
“Even though we got second I got to see and play against an old friend who was on the winning team, it was still great to share that experience and make friends while doing so,” said Walcott. “I wouldn’t trade my team for the world.”
As the championship game was winding down, Chambers subbed out the eight girls who were playing in their last AYSO game so they could receive an ovation from the crowd.
It was an emotional moment for Chambers, the players and their families, as they celebrated the last game they would play together as a team.
“The highlight of my trip on the field was definitely the last 10 minutes of the final game and afterwards. In professional sports they sub off retiring players and kind of let them have their ‘walk of fame’, and that is what coach Chambers did for all the girls that were ending their AYSO careers,” Brooke said. “It was a very emotional and meaningful moment, it was truly something special.”
“The most special moment on the field for me was when my coach called off all the seniors and just held us in a giant bear hug,” Landaverde said. “It was surreal standing on a soccer field in Hawaii surrounded by my entire soccer family. We were all in tears with full hearts watching our soccer journey come to an end. It was the most beautiful, bittersweet moment.”
While this past season was filled with victories, titles and fond memories, the bond that was built over the past three years stands out the most to the players.
Mojica, Pilar, Gardner and Daisy Carrillo were the core four that remained from the team three years ago, and over the years they were joined by Shyleen Martinez, MacKenzie Perez, Morgan Haynie, Sarah Diaz and Megan Orr, plus Lauraynn Burkhead and Jennifer Rodriguez who didn’t play in Hawaii but played during the season.
And the bond will remain strong with the eight players who played their last AYSO game, as evidenced by the barbecue party Chambers put together at his house to celebrate their graduation.
“I’ve played for many teams and this team is like no other,” Walcott said. “My teammates are my family, we care about each other in our own little ways all because of soccer.”
“This team, and when I say team I mean all the parents, siblings, and girls, is one huge family,” Landaverde said. “When one of us cried, we all sat and hugged each other, and when we had successes we all cheered each other on. Being supported by my team was so crucial for me and my life. I honestly felt empowered to do so much simply because of how much they supported me and my dreams. I will forever keep our memories in my heart but I know we will all stay close.”