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By Sal Arora of the AYSO Region 109 (Menlo Park-Atherton).
The Menlo Park-Atherton AYSO Girls (under 19) team recently won the AYSO Silicon Valley Area Championship. This area covers Menlo Park, Atherton, Los Altos, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Portola Valley and Woodside.
Pastor Guzman has a reputation among local soccer parents as a coach who can transform a bunch of recreational soccer players into a hard-driving, high-performing team. So, even after his 2011 Menlo Park-Atherton girls-under-19 team, the Green Unicorns, lost the opening game of the season ... and then a second, and a third, and a fourth ... Guzman, assistant coach Rudy Medina, and the girls never stopped believing that they could pull together.
After all, he had coached eight of the same players in 2009, the year his girls-under-16 team won the AYSO Silicon Valley Area championship.
The fifth game of the season was a turning point: the Menlo Park team tied a tough Los Altos opponent. And then they began to win, each victory moving them higher in the standings. When the regular season ended, the Green Unicorns found themselves in fourth place in the league.
The quarterfinal playoffs pitted the team against the Los Altos Gazelles, whom they shut out with a 3-0 score. Moving on to the semifinals, the team faced the first place West San Jose Destiny. The Unicorns prevailed, scoring two goals and short-circuiting their opponent's destiny by limiting the other team to a single goal.
In the Nov. 13 AYSO Silicon Valley Area championship game, the Unicorns faced the Mountain View White Lightning, another team that had trounced the Unicorns during the early part of the season. Dedication to training, hard work and a desire to win paid off with a 4-1 win.
Says Coach Guzman: "The girls' team chemistry was great. After those first four games, our defense came together, and they only let in five goals throughout the rest of the season. They love AYSO, and they were very motivated to win the championship."
Team members are: from Menlo-Atherton High School, Lindsey Hom, Shelby McDonald, Isabela Montoya, Katelyn Doherty, Rubi Guzman, Paola Jimenez, Kimberly Medina, Francesca Meffert, Elissa Webb, Angelica Causor, Naomi Tovar; from Pinewood, Brianna Quincy; from Middle College, Rebecca Kaplan; from Castilleja, Amanda Louie ane Rebecca Pless; and from King's Academy, Hannah Lawry