Since the start of the seasonal year back in September, Strikers FC North coach Hugo Ayala was unsure if he would have a club or even a team to coach. Little did he know that five months later, and after much hard work and dedication, his team of 11U Girls will be lifting the Cal South State Cup Governors Youngers Division Championship title.
“It was a tough year; it was a long year and it’s a complete roller coaster for myself,” said coach Ayala during the awards ceremony.
“For myself it means a lot. Born and raised in Cal South as a player, it means a lot. Thirteen years in coaching, first State Cup championship, I couldn’t ask for a better one. As far as for the girls, it means a lot to them, a lot of them were in former clubs that I worked for and now they moved on with me, so it means a lot more for us,” he added.
Coach Ayala lead a strong team to victory, the lone team through their age group that reached the final game without receiving a goal, and scoring a total of 35 goals through their 2017 Cal South State Cup campaign. Fourteen of those goals came in the group stage, 20 would follow in the knockout stage, but it would be in their final game that the group would be greatly challenged, a match that would be decided by one goal, and for Strikers FC North’s luck, it was in their favor.
“We had to grind it out. It was a probably one of our toughest games all year, it is a championship game,” coach Ayala said after the game. “Obviously, the weather didn’t help us out, the field conditions were a little muddy, but you know what, we stuck to our basics, continued to fight through, knocked the ball around and fortunately we got a ‘foul’ that we were able to capitalize on a free kick, so it worked out for us.”
As a former Cal South player, coach Ayala knew what to expect coming into the Cal South State Cup, having formerly competed in the tournament, an advantage for his team. From the high level of competition to field conditions, Strikers FC North was able to defeat everything, exceed expectations, and proudly lift their championship trophy. Although the championship is a great accomplishment, their work has just began.
“[We had] truly no objectives going into State Cup,” Ayala said. “I wanted the girls to perform, do their best, having a clear mind game-by-game.
“We continue to strive for more. And just like Legends coach [Cristian Araya] said, ‘it’s not what we do now, it’s what our future goals are as we get older, as we continue to work hard.’ After today, we celebrate, we go back to the chalkboard and we go back to work,” he finalized