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Sockers kick off indoor soccer season with South County spirit Phillip Brents | Sat, Nov 09 2013 05:25 PM

There are 4,000 reasons to attend Saturday's San Diego Sockers' home opener against the Dallas Sidekicks at the Valley View Casino Center (formerly San Diego Sports Arena). Actually, make that 4,010 reasons.

The Sockers are handing out 4,000 stainless steel replica championship rings to early arrivals in recognition of the team's 14th indoor soccer championship title. The Sockers defeated the Detroit Waza, 8-6, last March to win their four consecutive Professional Arena Soccer League Pro Division title and 14th overall among various incarnations of the Sockers.

The original Sockers won 10 championships in the North American Soccer League and Major Indoor Soccer League in the 1980s and 1990s.

The newest incarnation of the Sockers has proven just as successful since returning to indoor play in 2009.

As for the other 10 reasons to attend Saturdays game?

Well, the unveiling of the Sockers' 2013-14 dance team.

The 2013-14 Sockers Girls dance squad is comprised of 10 women from around San Diego County. It features six returners and four newcomers.

Two of the squad members hail from South County, including a former Miss Bonita and a former CIF gymnastics medalist from Otay Ranch High School.

As per team policy, only first names are releasable to the media.
  
Andria, who serves as team captain, is a former of Bonita Vista High School's internationally renowed Music Machine. Her most notable accomplishment is serving as Miss California Galaxy 2006. During her reign, she traveled extensively throughout the state on behalf on the American Cancer Society to share her story and help raise funds for cancer research and awareness. 

In July 2006, she held her own concert fundraiser to benefited the cause. Later that month she went on to place second runner-up to Miss Galaxy at the international pageant held in Orlando, Fla.

Prior to becoming Miss California Galaxy, she competed in many other state and local pageants, winning four titles during a five-year periods. Among those titles were Miss Bonita and Miss San Diego.

The former Miss Bonita has dedicated herself to serving the community. She said that will be reflected in a much higher community presence for the Sockers dance team under her direction.

“We'll be taking part in more community events and appearances with the team in the community – it's a great way to get involved with the community,” she said.

Elizabeth, a runner-up in the all-around varsity optional competition at the 2009 San Diego Section championships, concurred.

“It's a great way to reach out to the community,” she said.

One more for the thumb

This will be the third time the Sockers will be going for “one for the thumb,” as one team official stated at a press conference on Oct. 30 to introduce the team.

Kick-off is set for 7:05 p.m. The newest incarnation of the Sidekicks is coached by former Dallas indoor soccer legend Tatu.

Saturday's game is the first of 16 overall this season in the upgraded PASL-Pro, which features 20 teams in three divisions. Sockers owner Phil Salvagio is already predicting this to be the Sockers' most challenging season since the franchise's rebirth.

The Sockers finished undefeated in all 11 games at the Valley View Casino Center last season en route to compiling an overall 19-1 record. The Sockers set a North American professional sports team record with 48 consecutive victories over a multi-year period.

That one loss last season? The Dallas Sidekicks in overtime in Texas.

The Sidekicks are already off to a 1-0 start in 2013-14 after defeating the new Wichita franchise 15-3. New addition Nestor Hernandez had four goals in the win for Dallas.

The Sockers have not sat back idly and watched their competition improve without keeping pace. The Sockers have added some extra punch with the recent signings of midfielder Jeff Hughes and defender Evan McNeley.

Hughes was the PASL's MVP  in 2009-10 when he scored a league-best 37 goals for Cincinnati; McNeley scored 15 goals over the past two seasons with the three-time MISL champion Milwaukee Wave.

Returning are Sockers veterans Kraig Chiles, Brian Farber, Aaron Susi and Anthony Medina.

Chiles, a Poway High School and SDSU alum, is a thee-time PASL-Pro MVP (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13). He set new single-season records for goals (56) and points (72) as the Sockers finished 2012-13 with the best regular season record in the PASL (15-1) for the fourth consecutive year.

Susi, the team's captain, contemplated retirement but elected to give it more more try on the pitch.
 
Medina has been with the latest edition of the Sockers since its inception.

“When we all signed up for this we knew we had the job of keeping the tradition going,” said Medina, a Valhalla High School graduate. “It's hard to compare black and white between the two generations but I think we've done a good job in terms of competing at a high level of play and putting a good product on the field.”

The former Norseman standout agrees with his coach's assessment of the challenges the upcoming season will present to the team in winning its fifth consecutive PASL-Pro title.

“Everything's gotten a little better every year, the level of play has become more competitive,” he said.

Not on the field this season will be Paul Wright, the “ageless one,” who finally decided his hang up his soccer cleats for good after last season's PASL-Pro championship.

“It's going to be different,” Medina said.

But, from the Sockers' persepective, hopefully not with a different ending.

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