Grossmont soccer tournament kicks off

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By Mary York

Sunshine burst onto the field alongside 22 soccer players from Santana and Steele Canyon high schools, warming up the wet grass and blinding athletes. The 8 a.m. game was one of several which opened up the 38th annual Grossmont Tournament taking place at seven different sites all over the Grossmont district.

By Mary York

Sunshine burst onto the field alongside 22 soccer players from Santana and Steele Canyon high schools, warming up the wet grass and blinding athletes. The 8 a.m. game was one of several which opened up the 38th annual Grossmont Tournament taking place at seven different sites all over the Grossmont district.

Santana coach Luke Phillips co-organizes the tournament with Danny Martinez every year. He said it is a great way to flesh out teams and give substitutes a chance to taste the green.

“Especially when you play two games in a day, you’re not going to leave the same guys out there because they’re just going to get exhausted,” he said. “It’s good to put pieces together to form the set you want to go with when League starts. That’s why I think tournaments are a huge advantage.”

Both teams seemed to struggle on Steele Canyon’s home field, however, walking away from the match with a frustrating tie, 0-0.

“They’re waking up,” said Phillips. “Their winter dance was last night and we lost the coin flip so the sun was in our face for the first half. We had a bunch of good opportunities to score and just couldn’t finish today.”

Steele Canyon Cougar forward Shawn Azzu said he did not feel great about the game against the Sultans.

“We’d rather have a win, we can play better than this,” he said. “We’re good on the ball and passing around. We didn’t show it as much as we’d like this game but that’s what we’re good at and that’s what our strengths are.”

Fellow Cougar Miguel Ortega said the team just needed a little polish.

“I think we did a pretty good job,” he said. “It’s just that we needed to finish and keep the ball more.”

Coaching the Cougars’ varsity team for his second year, Justin Johnson said the squad was missing a few players which may have hampered their effectiveness on the field.

“We’re down a couple people on the attacking side but I think we defended well,” he said. “We made a lot of improvements from our last game so I was proud of the boys.”

Johnson said the team is shaping up nicely for the season ahead.

“We’re going to play a different style than last year, a lot more possession this year,” he said.

“We have a lot more touch than in years past, and always here we like to focus on hard work and aggression. That’s something that’s not going to change. But I like the group of guys we have. I think they’re a hard-working group, so it’s going to be fun.”

Azzu said Johnson has been a great asset to the team.

“We love our coaches,” he said. “They’re great coaches. They teach us a lot. You can already tell we’ve developed a lot with them.”

Santana (4-0-1) and Steele Canyon (1-1-1) will be seeing each other again in league play where they are neck and neck in the standings.

The Grossmont Tournament runs through Dec. 19.