Sat, Jul 23 2011 12:29 AM Posted By: Phillip Brents
Twenty-five years ago, there was a marked difference watching men’s and women’s soccer. The pace was uneven by comparison, with women players lagging behind men in terms of speed and execution. The same was true of high school play and was true up until the present time.
The women’s game has finally matured — or, at least, a new generation of players has matured to help close the competition gap. That much has been apparent from watching games televised from this year’s Women’s World Cup in Germany.
“Women players have better speed than ever before and are faster on and off the ball and faster switching the ball,” said Ron Pietila, who is credited with helping girls soccer get its kick start as a CIF sport within the San Diego Section in the early 1980s and who continues to serve as tournament director for the Barons Girls Soccer Tournament, the largest such prep venture in the state.
“Women are faster in all facets and that goes for girls at the high school level as well,” he continued. “That used to be the difference between watching men and women play. But you really can’t say that anymore. There’s a lot more parity in play than years ago.”
Pietila was honored with a lifetime achievement award prior to last Saturday’s inaugural Metro League Senior All-Star Girls Soccer Game at Southwestern College. The players on the field rewarded the smattering of fans in attendance with an excellent display of attacking soccer, speed, tenacity and desire.
It was clearly a breath of fresh air, especially for those who can remember how slow by comparison the girls game seemed in earlier years.
“The warm-ups were kind of silly but once the whistle blew and a couple minutes went by, you could tell the girls on both teams wanted to win,” said Bonita Vista coach Ryan Marquez, who served as coach of the East team. “A lot of juniors were here and they already want to play in this next year.”
The West team defeated the East team, 2-1, to go up 1-0 in the inaugural game of what coaches are hoping will become a regular series.
Otay Ranch’s Bianka Saenz scored the first goal of the match about four minutes into the second half to give the East a 1-0 lead. But the West team responded with a pair of unanswered goals to prevail. Southwest’s Alexis Moreno scored about midway through the second half to tie the game and Hilltop’s Marisa Espino notched what proved to be the game-winning goal with about 10 minutes to play.
Moreno earned the distinction of receiving the game’s inaugural MVP award that was named in Pietila’s honor.
The first half ended in a scoreless tie thanks to excellent play by the goalkeepers of the respective teams — Mater Dei Catholic’s Sarah Papapietro for the East team and Otay Ranch’s Yasmin Osorio for the West team.
Both teams played the game without substitutes and some last-minute line-up shuffling took place to even out the teams.
“I feel personally honored because out of all the girls who were available, I got picked to play,” said Papapietro, who is bound for the University of New England in Bidderford, Maine, this fall. “It was amazing to play with all these girls after playing against them during the season. We all came from different teams but we managed to put together a team of our own. It was fun.”
For the West, Sweetwater teammates Tamara Rojas and Prisma Mendoza orchestrated several precision offensive attacks on the pitch.
“It really meant a lot to be able to play alongside Prisma one more time,” said Rojas, who is planning to attend Mesa College. “She is my friend and always brings a smile to my face.”
Rojas leaves SuHi as one of the National City school’s most versatile athletes — whether male or female. Besides soccer, she also competed in the pole vault during spring track and field season and also served as a place-kicker on the Red Devils football team during the fall.
“It was a lot of special memories and a lot of fun being around so many different teammates in all the sports,” she said.
Rene Ortiz of defending Mesa League champion Hilltop coached the West team. He called the match-up a perfect send-off for all involved.
“I think it’s a great day for girls soccer in the South Bay having a game like this before they go on to college,” he said. “This is a little recognition from the coaches for them.”
“I hope this becomes a tradition,” Espino said.
Women’s World Cup
Pietila, who jumped-started the Southwest program before moving over to coach at Bonita Vista and then at Otay Ranch, also mentioned a great deal of parity is starting to showcase itself in the Women’s World Cup. The United States dropped a 2-1 match to Sweden on Tuesday to finish second in Group C. The Americans draw Group D winner Brazil in Sunday’s quarterfinals.
One of Pietila’s former players at BVHS, Jen Lalor, represented the U.S. at the 1995 Women’s World Cup.
West roster: Alexis Moreno (Southwest), Marisa Espino (Hilltop), Tamara Rojas (Sweetwater), Prisma Mendoza (Sweetwater), Yazmin Osorio (Otay Ranch), Alejandra Gomez (Castle Park), Jessica Villa (Chula Vista), Karen Galvez (Montgomery), Stephanie Romero (Southwest), Rosalinda Contreras (Southwest), Samantha Martinez (Hilltop)
East roster: Bianka Saenz (Otay Ranch), Jennifer Ortega (Otay Ranch), Shara Papapietro (Mater Dei Catholic), Carmen Wheeler (Otay Ranch), Claudia Viallatoro (San Ysidro), Monze Tavera (Mar Vista), Fernanda Camacho (Mar Vista),Jessica Maciel (San Ysidro), Renee Lopez (Mar Vista), Alejandra Castellanos (Southwest), Uilani Himan (Otay Ranch)
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