Grand Canyon's U-19 soccer team may have been stars of the season, bringing home the first AYSO championship since 1996 and the first ever in their division, but at Sunday's awards barbecue, the biggest nod went to the volunteers who made the program a success.
"This was the easiest season I've had," said Grand Canyon Youth Soccer Coordinator Jon Streit. "We had the most volunteers we've ever had, and a lot of new faces. Thank you all for supporting the kids and supporting the program."
The program relies on volunteers for everything from administration to striping the field for home games. They work the concession stand, raise funds and donations of goods and services, referee, coach and cheer the kids on. The registration fee each player pays goes toward uniforms and league fees. Funds for trophies for each player, as well as T-shirts for the volunteers, come from donations, grants and money raised at the concession booth. This year, the league also offered two scholarships to register youngsters who would not have played otherwise.
Most of the more than 70 players received trophies at Sunday's event while players from the U-19 team received medals.
"I can't say too much that hasn't already been said about this team," said U-19 head coach, Ken Hunter. "I'm really proud of how the girls played."
He said that in his 20-plus years with AYSO, this was only the second division championship he's seen. The first was a tie between U-14 team in 1996.
Hunter also put in a plug for the high school soccer season, which begins on Friday, Sept. 9, with a game at 4 p.m. Most of the U-19 players are on the high school team, which Hunter also coaches.
Like many of the players, he started with the U-6 team years ago and worked his way up.
"The most exciting thing about seeing the U-6 program is that when you look at the U-19 team, those kids and coaches started there. It's the foundation of our program," Streit said.
Acknowledged for their work behind the scenes were Nora Berry, Lori Bowman, Laura Jones, Kathleen Bankston and Chuck Ashworth.
Recognized for coaching were: U-6 Steve Homan and Mike Archer, U-8 Andy Pearce and Chris Streit, U-10 Emmons Berry and Chris Pergiel, U-12 Brett Fairhead and Jon Streit; U-14 Melissa Pilgrim and Kendall Suwinn and U-19 Ken Hunter, David Beckerleg and Chas Iacampo.
Also recognized were coaches for the 3v3 league, which fielded three teams from Grand Canyon its first year. Two of those qualified to go on to the finals in San Antonio.
They are Angie Kissner for the U-8 team, Streit for the U-12 team and Dale Kissner for the U-14 team.
Thanks also went out to referees Jaime Caballero, Eric Guiessez, Terry Tobin, Ronnie and Casey Gibson, Monique Streit, Chloe Phillips, John Kissner, Chris Streit and Matthew Beckerleg.
Streit offered "special thanks" to Emmons Berry, who, he said, "was basically my right hand man."
Streit also acknowledged the companies that have helped support the teams, including We Cook Pizza and Pasta, IMAX Theater, Coca Cola, Sysco Foods, Shamrock Foods and Wholesum Foods.