DEL MAR – More than 16 weeks ago the message running through the Sockers team facilities was that anything less than another championship season would be a disappointment.The message prior to Saturday night’s Ron Newman Cup Championship final against the Detroit Waza Flo was “focus.”General manager John Kentera admitted he was feeling “very nervous” before the match, but after the 10-7 win, securing their 13th division championship in team history, Kentera said he was extremely proud of his team.
“We beat a good team tonight,” he said. “That team’s a well-schooled, veteran team.”
The win came in front of a raucous crowd of 2, 628.
Detroit won the Eastern Division and beat the Tijuana Revolucion in Friday’s semifinals.
Despite trailing early in the game, midfielder Anthony Medina started the scoring for the Sockers and after a game-tying goal by team captain Aaron Susi, the Sockers would take and hold the lead.
Kentera credited his team for believing in themselves and not fragmenting. “A lot of teams, they start splintering off when things aren’t going their way,” he added.
Susi agreed, saying that “we’ve got a good group of guys; we’re friends off the field and that translates to chemistry on the field. It was a good season for us and it feels really good.”
Susi’s hopeful that they’ll win next weekend and continue their winning into next season, he added.
For co-captain Nate Hetherington, who will be retiring after the season, he said the win was a “fairy tale ending.” Hetherington said this team has to be the strongest over the last three years.
“To go undefeated is virtually impossible and for us to be able to pull it off was amazing,” he said. “We have so many players that can contribute at any given time.”
Hetherington made the decision to retire out of respect to the game, he said, and to let some of the younger kids coming up have the opportunity to be a part of the organization.
While he hopes to remain a part of the organization in a coaching capacity, Hetherington said his time playing with the Sockers has been unbelievable.
“To be playing in my home town and to have camaraderie of these teammates and the fan support… that means a lot to me,” he said.
With one of the team’s biggest goals completed, Kentera said the season still isn’t over. “In our organization we play for championships. We played our tail off…the whole thing is special. We’ve got the one last game now, we still have to go to Cincinnati and then we’re going to hopefully win that and then it’s going to really be special.
“I’m proud of them because of all the sacrifices they made to be a part of this team,” he said.
The Sockers’ final match is March 17 for the U.S. Open Cup. They will take on the Cincinnati Kings in Ohio. The game will be streamed live on 619sports.net at 4:35 p.m. PST.