Mercury rises to the top

Courtesy of Seth Alberico
MVLA Mercury Black won its division of the San Diego Surf Cup last month. Front row, from left: Gabby Sanfilippo, Erica Higa, Natalie Perreault, Amber Mallett, Taryn Harpell, Marissa Hing and Tierney McClenahan. Back: Manager Dan Hing, head coach Seth Alberico, Rebecca Andrews, Gabby Lopez, Regan Heslop, Gianna Timoteo, Aerial Chavarin, Jayme Hughes, Tegan McGrady, Shaelan Murison and assistant coach Peter Higa.

MVLA Mercury Black scored its second San Diego Surf Cup championship in four years by going undefeated in five games at the national soccer tournament.

The under-17 girls team from the Mountain View Los Altos Soccer Club claimed the crown in its division July 28.

“It was very exciting, especially after all the good teams we had to get through,” coach Seth Alberico said.

Mercury played teams from throughout the state, including Real So Cal in the championship game.

Mercury capped the three-day tournament by clipping Real So Cal 2-1 in overtime.

The local team struck first, getting a goal from National team player Tegan McGrady in the opening half. Real So Cal answered in a last minute of regulation to force overtime, consisting of two 10-minute periods.

Early in the second period, McGrady struck again – this time on a free kick in the 83rd minute. Mercury’s defense held Real So Cal the rest of the way, ensuring the victory.

“I’m so happy we were able to pull through and win such a big tournament,” said midfielder and Los Altos High senior Rebecca Andrews.

This marked Mercury’s second Surf Cup title; the team claimed the winter championship in the under-14 division in 2010.

“It validates that they’ve been one of the top teams for the last four years,” Alberico said.

The coach added that Mercury’s toughest game this time around was in group play against another top team – So Cal Blues Dodge ECNL.

To make it out of the bracket and into the semifinals, Mercury needed a win, while the Blues only had to tie.

“We’ve had that situation with that team (So Cal Blues) many times in the last year and a half, and we’ve always seemed to tie or lose,” Alberico said.

Not this time. Mercury prevailed 2-1 to advance to the semis.

Mercury overcame other obstacles as well – including players sideline by illness and injuries – and concluded the tournament with only two or three subs. Standout midfielder Erica Higa, a recent graduate of Mountain View High, missed the last two games due to an ankle injury.

“As a team, everybody did what they had to do,” Alberico said. “There were players playing out of position because of injury, but everybody contributed to make it work.”

With many of the players off to college in the fall, this was the last tournament for team members like Higa (University of Pennsylvania).

“It was an awesome way to see the team out,” Alberico said. “The girls will always have that memory.”

Mercury moves to the under-18 division next season, slated to begin in September. The team’s next major tournament is scheduled for November in Phoenix.

Andrews has high hopes for the season after the Surf Cup win.

“I hope this is just the beginning,” she said.

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