SANTA ANA PUEBLO – Bringing teams to the US Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championships is no simple task for Mike Montgomery.
This year it required nearly seven hours on airplanes to get Montgomery’s Alaska Rush ’99 girls team to Albuquerque from its home city of Anchorage. Since arriving, the U15 squad has been faced with unfamiliar heat (97 degrees Tuesday), elevation (Anchorage is near sea level) and competition.
“We have Cal South and Arizona in our group,” Montgomery said. “Those teams would be tough for anyone.”
Alaska Rush ’99, one of three teams from the state competing in this week’s tournament, lost 7-0 to Arizona’s Ahwatukee ’99 on Tuesday and is 0-2 in group play.
“By the time the girls get acclimated here, they’ll be warriors when we get back to Alaska,” he said. “Playing in regionals is always a great experience.”
Montgomery should know. He’s brought Alaska teams to regionals in Albuquerque four times, even celebrating his honeymoon on the first visit 27 years ago.
“You live in Alaska, you get used to travel,” Montgomery said.
Things were admittedly a bit tougher last summer when regionals were held in Hawaii.
“Yeah, keeping kids focused there was a challenge,” Montgomery said. “I mean there are things to do here, but New Mexico’s not Hawaii.”
SHOOTING THE BREEZE: Winds have been an ongoing topic of conversation during the first two days of play. They’ve ranged from comfortable breezes to howling gusts.
Most coaches and players have pointed out that the wind keeps players cooler and provides no real edge for one team over another. But UNM women’s assistant coach Jorge Vela begged to differ.
“I’d say it’s ‘advantage New Mexico,’” said Vela, who was on hand to watch Lobo recruits and various other players with the rest of UNM’s coaching staff. “Players who grow up here are used to the wind.”
Some local teams prevailed in Tuesday’s winds. Among them:
• Rio Rapids Reds improved to 2-0 in U18 boys play, beating Nevada’s LVSA ’96 by 3-0. Brian Lopez, Corey Carabajal and Justin Hix scored.
• NM Rush ’96 moved to 2-0 in U18 girls action, topping Cal-North’s Lomarinda United 3-2. Zoie Hensley scored twice for NM Rush.
• Rio Rapids ’97 Zia beat Washington’s NW Nationals ’96 by a 2-0 score to improve to 2-0 in U17 girls play.
• Classic FC Toros (1-1-0) kept their U16 boys hopes alive by defeating Hawaii Rush 2-1.