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Vikings sweep Vallecitos Soccer Tournament championships

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Both the Vallecitos Elementary School boys and the Vikings girls took first place at the Thursday, Oct. 26, Vallecitos Soccer Tournament.

"Not a bad day," Vallecitos School District superintendent Meliton Sanchez said.

"I'm very proud of the effort for both teams, and they played very well. I'm overjoyed with the result," said Vallecitos boys coach Ray Hanbeck.

"I'm really proud of them. The boys and the girls worked hard this season to prepare to win championships," Vallecitos girls coach Kristin Dignan said.

Six small K-8 elementary schools and middle schools in northern San Diego County and southern Riverside County have monthly athletic tournaments with each school hosting a different sport. Pauma Elementary School is also in the league, and the Bobcats placed third in the boys competition and fourth in girls play.

Hanbeck was also the tournament organizer. The girls played at Rainbow Park, which is owned and maintained by the county and has a synthetic turf surface, while the boys utilized the Vallecitos Elementary School playground.

Five referees volunteered their time for the Vallecitos Soccer Tournament: father and son Tony Avila and Tony Avila, current Fallbrook High School girls soccer coach Nick Guerra, former Cottonwood Elementary School coach Scott Whitmore and Whitmore's son, Matthew. Vallecitos Elementary School's Student Council had a snack bar which raised funds for Student Council programs.

The teams were divided into two pools; each team played another team in the pool before the pool winners played for the championship, the pool runners-up played in the third-place game, and the third-place pool teams played for fifth place.

For both boys and girls, Vallecitos was in the pool with Cottonwood from Aguanga and Warner Middle School from Warner Springs while Pauma was in the pool with Julian Junior High School and Borrego Springs Middle School.

The Vallecitos girls outscored their opposition by a cumulative 17-0 margin.

"I was proud of the girls. They knew what they wanted to accomplish," Dignan said. "They knew they had to work hard to do it."

Guadalupe Figueroa recorded the three goalkeeper shutouts with assistance from starting defenders Leticia Cortez Diaz, Emely Franco and Mayra Martinez.

"We had really good defense," Dignan said.

A 4-0 victory over Cottonwood began play for the Vallecitos girls.

"It took us 13 minutes and 50 seconds to score our first goal," Dignan said. "We were a little gun shy."

Vallecitos had 18 girls on its team.

"Ten have never even played in a competitive game," Dignan said.

Kathy Rojas had two of the goals against Cottonwood and also provided two assists to Dalina Hernandez, who scored the other two goals.

"It was a tough game," Cottonwood coach Rose Connell said. "Vallecitos had good passing."

The second game for the Vikings girls ended as a 6-0 triumph against Warner. Dalina Hernandez scored three goals, Rojas placed two shots into the net, and Rochelle Hernandez had one goal. Dalina Hernandez and Ana Juan Pedro each had an assist.

"I got everybody in the game. All the girls got to play," Dignan said. "New players could get some playing experience."

The Pauma girls began play with a 3-0 loss to Julian and took a 2-1 victory over Borrego Springs. Julian's second game was a 3-1 win against Borrego Springs which put the Timberwolves into the final against Vallecitos.

With 1 minute, 28 seconds elapsed in the final, Arela Monroy scored her first goal of the tournament. Monroy also scored the Vikings' fourth goal against Julian. Dalina Hernandez also had two goals. Rochelle Hernandez and Rojas had a goal apiece and, with 1:36 remaining, Franco scored on a penalty kick.

"That was some good soccer," Julian girls coach Amber Cruz said. "They were very gracious on the field. They played hard. It was a nice clean game."

Cruz coached Julian's girls in 2021 when the Timberwolves won the Vallecitos Soccer Tournament. Vallecitos won the girls portion of the tournament in 2022 as well as in 2023; the Vikings defeated Pauma in last year's final.

Pauma faced Cottonwood in the third-place girls game. The Cougars scored first and the Bobcats tied the game. The score was 1-1 after regulation, so a penalty kick shootout would decide the winner with each team taking three shots and the game then going to single-shot results if the teams were tied after the first three shots. Cottonwood goalkeeper Chanel Varney blocked two of the three Pauma shots while the Cougars scored twice for the 2-1 victory and third place.

"We came up short," Pauma coach Jaime Lopez said.

Pauma settled for fourth place in the girls portion. "Proud of our girls," Lopez said. "The girls played hard."

The four Pauma goals including in the shootout were scored by Allison Rocha, Pamela Romero, Yesenia Saldana and Lizeth Santos. Nancy Saavedra was Pauma's goalkeeper. Lopez platooned one defender position while Denise Carasco and Daisy Parra were regular starters.

The Vallecitos boys opened the competition with a 6-0 win over Cottonwood.

"We had a pretty dominant advantage," Hanbeck said. "We had more speed, and we had better shooting ability."

Geovani Yanez scored three of the Vikings' goals. Alonso Duran, Sylvester Hernandez and Tiago Lopez each scored once. Carlos Pablo was the Vallecitos goalkeeper with the shutout and was aided by starting defenders Michael Alvarez, Leo Fuentes, James Sharkey and Iker Yanez.

Vallecitos obtained a 5-0 victory against Warner.

"It was hard to get the first goal," Hanbeck said. "It took us a while to get started. We were making a lot of shots on goal, but they were missing."

The shots which went into the net consisted of three by Duran, one from Geovani Yanez and one from David Loera.

"They started to get their groove," Hanbeck said.

The Pauma boys began play with a 4-0 triumph against Julian. Azael Robles scored all four goals and Jose Diaz had all four assists.

"Jose Diaz did a great job with the assists," Lopez said.

Santiago Bautista recorded the goalkeeper shutout for the Bobcats. Nathan Madante, Leo Unquidez and Brandon Zuniga were the starting defenders.

"It was a good, tough win for us," Lopez said.

The Borrego Springs boys followed their 8-3 win over Julian with a 1-0 victory against Pauma.

"It was close. They scored in the last two minutes of the game," Lopez said. "We had our opportunities. We just didn't get them. We outplayed them. They just outscored us."

Pauma defeated Warner in the 2-0 third-place boys game.

"We were dominating that game," Lopez said.

Lopez used Angel Bentley as the Bobcats' goalkeeper in the third-place game, giving Bentley the shutout against the Wildcats.

"They played super. We only allowed one goal in three games," Lopez said.

Last year Vallecitos and Borrego Springs, whose nickname is also the Bobcats, met in the boys final. The game was scoreless for the first 18 minutes before a Borrego Springs goal gave the Bobcats a 1-0 victory. This year Vallecitos defeated Borrego Springs in a penalty kick shootout.

"I'm really happy. It was a nice bit of revenge, I guess you can say," Hanbeck said. "The game and the victory were that much more sweet because we were able to win it back this time."

Borrego Springs also won the 2021 boys championship; that year Vallecitos placed third in the Vikings' pool and there was no fifth-place game. Vallecitos and Borrego Springs faced each other in the boys championship game both in 2019 and in 2018 with the Vikings winning both times. Vallecitos defeated Hamilton for the 2017 boys championship. The coronavirus shutdown canceled the 2020 soccer tournament.

The 2023 boys final had a 1-1 score at the end of regulation with Duran scoring the Vallecitos goal.

"That was a hard-fought game. We had some great defensive plays," Hanbeck said.

Geovani Yanez, Hernandez and Duran all scored in the first three shootout rounds, although Borrego Springs was also successful on the Bobcats' first three shots. Borrego Springs missed the shot in the single-shot tiebreaker and Duran scored to give Vallecitos the win and the championship.

"It was great that we were able to take first place for both boys and girls. It made the event that much more sweet for the kids," Hanbeck said.

If weather permits the next tournament will be a flag football tournament Thursday, Nov. 30. Cottonwood will host the tournament although the Cougars do not have their own field and the competition will be played at Hamilton High School.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected].


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