Starr King Elementary School Soccer Team Steps It Up
Storm, Starr King Elementary School’s fifth grade girls’ soccer team, has had a scorching season in the San Francisco Vikings soccer league, winning five straight games before suffering a loss to Ravens Gray. Storm is in second place among 16 teams going into the play-offs. “Although the girls are in second place after the loss…the girls are waiting for a rematch in the playoffs in November,” the team’s coach and Potrero Hill resident Terence Jones said. Storm’s first loss was to a team that easily outplays other teams, said Jones, and the girls gave them “a much better battle than any other team,” with a final score of three to two.
Storm practices at the Potrero Hill Recreation Center, not far from Starr King. Jones has been visualizing a playoff win every time the teams run up the hill from the school to the practice field. “One of the key factors in the success of the team is the girls all work together as a team,” Jones said. “The offense finds the weakness and exploits it. They have scored 20 goals so far this season. The defense is selfless, and has only allowed seven goals in seven games.” Team members are from a variety of ancestries, including Chinese, European, African, and South American, with some kids a combination of races. “It is a veritable UN of soccer players,” Jones said. That “makes it kind of cool.”
While the girls have different demographic and economic backgrounds, Jones said they’re united by playing soccer for their school. But the most important ingredient in their success is the length of time they’ve been playing together. “This is their sixth season,” Jones said. “We’ve been able to hold together our team.” According to Jones, players who excel often leave a team to play with others with the same skill level. But Storm’s players have stayed together, even though some of the girls could have joined other teams.
There are two soccer seasons during the school year. In the fall, the team plays in the Vikings league. In the spring, the league is sponsored by the Police Athletic League.
According to Jones, soccer has created a bridge among kids from different backgrounds, teaching them to work together. When Storm first formed among second graders, there was an altercation between English- and Spanish-speaking kids. Today, these groups play soccer together as “best buddies,” Jones said. Team members include Maxine Asmussen, Audrey Chu, Andrea Galo, Cierah Garcia, Ja Misha Jackson, Mackenzie Jones, Tiairrah Jones, Helen Lude, Brianna Rodriguez, Elena Rodriguez, Skylar Tan, Daisy Wanger, and Julianne Wertz.
Wanger is the team’s leading scorer, with 13 goals in seven games. In soccer a player scoring three goals in a game is said to have achieved a “hat trick.” But Storm needed to create a term for scoring four goals in a match after Wanger accomplished that in game four of the season, calling it a “daisy.” “She has not missed a game or missed scoring in any game this season,” Jones said. “The most impressive [fact] is her smallish physical stature and her gigantic will to fight to win the ball against much larger girls.” Other team leaders include Mackenzie Jones, the coach’s daughter, with four goals this season; Wertz and Elena Rodriguez each have three goals. Briana Rodriguez scored a goal in the team’s most recent win. Jones pointed to Jones, Asmussen, Chu, Brianna Rodriguez, Jackson and Tan as Storm’s best defensive players.
Krysta Jenkins, a former collegiate soccer player at the University of Hawaii, is helping Jones, co-coaches Marcelo Rodriguez and Chris Wanger, and manager Lani Way with the team. Jenkins plays professional soccer for the California Storm in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. When asked what impressed her most about the team, Jenkins said, “Their dedication. They just seem to want it. And they give me their undivided attention.” According to Jones, Jenkins has the team “incredibly excited about” soccer.
Three years ago, 20 kids from Starr King Elementary were playing soccer. Today, the school has more than 10 teams, with roughly half of the 300 students involved in the sport. Jones said that while it can be difficult to raise children in a city, soccer helps create a kid-friendly environment. The team has a song that the week’s team captains call out, with the rest of the team repeating during training: “Starr King Storm...that’s our team. We play fair...nice and clean. We work hard....and we’re not Mean...but we’re gonna beat your team!”
“We’re pretty happy with the way it’s worked,” Jones said.
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