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Soccer: U-14 Girls Traveling Team, Lassen Arsenal, Takes 1st Place at District Cup


by Niki Cunningham
Sports Editor

Bob Nielsen 

The U-14 Lassen Arsenal competed in the annual District Cup Tournament on Nov. 8th and 9th at Anderson River Park.  The top 5 teams from the Walt Zinko Playing League entered the Round-Robin Tournament.  Each team played the other 4 teams, and were awarded up to 9 points based on the results.  Lassen held a 3-1-1 record against these other teams in the regular season, and a 7-1-1 record overall, winning first place in their age division. 
Arsenal’s first game was at midday against the Anderson Constrictors, the only team to have beaten Lassen in the regular season.  Down 3 key players, Lassen went in with only a couple of substitutes.  Temperatures in the mid-80’s and high humidity took a toll on the team, as did the physical challenges from a talented Anderson team.  About 15 minutes into the first half, Anderson sent a long ball towards the goal line.  Goal keeper Lexie Stevens held her line, as the defense raced back to protect the net.  Gabi Nielsen was shielding the ball from the striker, but was shoved down from behind before she was able to clear it and the ball was struck solidly past Stevens.  Unfazed by the missed call, Lassen responded a few minutes later as Striker Amber Jackson created a breakaway situation on the right side of the goal, and put the ball through the outstretched hands of the Constrictor’s keeper into the left side netting to even the game. The second half was mostly controlled by Lassen, but the solid Anderson defense and goalkeeping kept the score tied 1-1.
Lassen’s second game began at 4:30 against the Redding Lightning.  Again, the first half was pretty evenly matched, but the Lightning showed a little better ball control than Lassen.  Redding caught a break when missed clearance ended up at the foot of their striker down at the end line.  She took control and made a quick shot with no real angle on the goal.  Stevens was in perfect position to field it, but it somehow slipped through her hands and into the net, giving Redding a 1-0 lead they would take into the half.  Lassen responded in the second half by out-playing the Lightning in every regard.  Strikers Kristen Zamora and Jackson kept 7 defenders and midfielders running full tilt, as they dribbled and sped past them.  Midfielders Paige Martin and Emma Newton got quality shots off as well.  Shot after shot just missed the mark or was saved by the keeper, until Jackson was taken down just outside the Penalty Box.  Given a free kick from 18 yards away, Jackson laid the ball just over the keeper’s fingers and just under the 8 foot high crossbar to tie the game.  While the attempts on goal continued, the score ended up tied at the final whistle.  After the first day of competition, all 5 games had been tied 1-1, making everyone tied for first place, leaving league officials wondering how to do a 5-way tiebreaker.
Coming into Sunday Morning, Lassen was determined to break the cycle.  Having regained their missing players, but losing 4 others, Lassen had just one substitute for the final 2 games.  They faced the Palo Cedro Mustangs at noon, and jumped all over the opportunities to score.  Jackson put 2 goals in early, putting the nerves of coaches and parents at ease.  One of these was directly off of a corner kick, which Jackson bent around into the goal.  While the defender tried to clear it, it had already crossed the goal line, and the Assistant Referee ruled it a goal.  The team rallied behind these goals, unwilling to sit back and play defense, and continued pressuring the Mustang’s goal.  The final minutes of the game brought a hat trick by Jackson, who found her way through a seam in the defense to give the team the maximum points for the 3-0 win.  The Arsenal defense, anchored by Goalie Brittney Patton and center defender Shannon Ferrall posted their first shutout of the tournament to take control of 1st place in the standings with one game left to play. 
Sunday Afternoon, Lassen challenged the Anderson Bone Crushers.  Having tied in their last match a week prior, the two teams were pretty evenly matched.  In seemingly typical Lassen fashion, they conceded a goal in the first half, going down 1-0 in three of their 4 games in the tournament.  At half-time, Lassen Youth Soccer President Danny Matchniff came to share some words of encouragement, and the Arsenal returned to the field for their final 30 minutes of play.  By this time, many girls on both sides were tired, but the Lassen ladies legs were fresher and their desire stronger than Bone Crushers’.   Zamora tied the game as she kneed a cross by Jackson into the net after a foul by Anderson.  In a matter of minutes, Jackson again crossed the ball to a well-positioned midfielder, and Newton found the back of the net to put Lassen up for good.  When the 4 minutes of added injury time ticked off the clock, Lassen celebrated it’s second win, and rushed to the scoring table to figure our if their win was good enough for 1st place.  Within a few minutes, the results became official: Due to the number of goals scored in their two wins and their tight defense not allowing many goals, Lassen earned first place in District Cup. 
The inscriptions on this perpetual trophy indicate that Lassen last had this honor in 2002, and before that in 1990.  The District Cup will be touring the homes and schools of the girls who earned it over the next 11 months.  The team has had an incredible season led by some amazing girls who love the game and love to compete.  The girls would like to thank their coaches, Bob Nielsen and Hillary Magarrell, their parents, LYS, and their sponsor Elise’s Barber Shop for the support they have received this season.  They would also like to thank SusanvilleStuff for covering this winning season, and their many coaches and mentors past and present for many hours of dedication to youth sports.  They will be honored Thursday night at 6:30 at an awards banquet at McKinley School, along with the other outstanding U-12 and U-14 LYS teams. 


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