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The Tucson Soccer Academy (TSAFC) finished their inaugural 2013 season in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) with a regular season record of 7-1-1 and a first place finish in the Big Sky North Division, outscoring opponents 30-11 along the way.
Ultimately, the club went on to finish in third place in the Western Conference, earning head coach Amy Garelick honorable mention Coach of the Year honors in the West and All-West player honors for Kelly Kearns, Karli Hedlund (University of Arizona), Chandler Morris (ASU) and Kaitlyn Lopez (Ironwood Ridge-2012/Arizona).
Kearns went on to be named to the 18-member All-WPSL team as a defender. After leading Salpointe to back-to-back state championships in 1998 and 1999, Kearns went on to play for Pima and then the Sonoran Thunder until that team folded. At age 33 and three kids later, Kearns is still on top of her game and is one of Southern Arizona’s most accomplished athletes.
Now, even though the team has matured a bit, they are still relatively young and inexperienced compared to the other seasoned teams of the WPSL and, on top of that, TSAFC has been placed in the very difficult Pacific South Division this year where the Beach Futbol Club dominates with an 8-0 record.
The more difficult divisional placement with Southern California teams has resulted in a 1-4-1 record this year but Garelick has seen measurable improvement from where the season began.
“Every game has been competitive for us but we have yet to put together a complete 90-minute game,” said Garelick. “This past week has been a respectful week for us and we will get there. We are only going to get better.”
Part of the success in competing with opponents this past week has been the goal-tending play of Laura DeMers (Catalina Foothills-2013/New Mexico). DeMers has come up big in a 1-1 tie with Phoenix del Sol, a 0-2 loss to the San Diego SeaLions and a spirited 3-1 loss to Beach FC on Sunday afternoon.
The SeaLions are in second place in the division and Beach FC dominated TSAFC 5-1 earlier in the season on their home field. Kearns injured her ankle in that early loss and has been on practice restrictions over the last month, playing mostly in games.
Beach FC took a 2-0 lead into the half with DeMers keeping TSAFC in the game with multiple saves and Brianna Barreiro (UTEP) cut the lead down to 2-1 on a penalty kick in the 54th minute, but a late goal by Beach FC ended the attempt to tie it up.
“We knew it was going to be tough this year but we like playing in these games,” explained Kearns. “We prepared more this time and we wanted it more but they are more mature and we are very young.”
The rest of the team continues to turn to Kearns as an example of how to stay fit and competitive but even Kearns admits injuries take a bit longer to overcome but she still competes at the highest level.
With almost two dozen recent high school graduates from Southern Arizona on their roster, TSAFC looks to be competitive for several years as the rest of the division “ages.”
The next game will be at LA Premier FC on June 27 with the next home game scheduled for July 8 against Phoenix del Sol as part of a double-header with FC Tucson. All home games are at the Kino Soccer Stadium.
Kearns coaches the Mountain View girl’s team during high school season and TSAFC assistant coach Becky Barry (Salpointe-2006/Arizona-2010) will be taking over at Salpointe this winter.
Former Catalina Foothills and All-Great Midwest Athletic Conference keeper Cameron Rivera is serving as the team’s goalkeeper coach.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on the pages of the Vail Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com