Rush Team Has High Expectations Heading Into Tourney

Keeping distractions to a minimum was among the reasons the Rush 99B Nike team advanced to the semi-finals of the US Youth Soccer Region IV (West) Championships in Phoenix, Ariz., last June. A year later, Rush 99B Nike Head Coach Stan Fuller admits it’s a different deal with the 2013 US Youth Soccer Region IV (West) Championships, which is set to play out at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex.

“It is easier to focus on the road (in a Mainland city),” said Fuller, whose roster (14- to 16-year-olds) is dominated by players from Ewa Beach, Kapolei and Pearl City. “There aren’t too many distractions there … Having it here can be a plus or a minus. It really comes down to us being mentally prepared.”

Rush 99B is both the 2013 HYSA Hawaii State Champion and the US Youth Soccer Hawaii State Cup Champion. The team punched its ticket for the Western Regionals by winning the Hawaii State Tournament in May.

More than half of the team’s roster were key components on last year’s squad, giving Rush one of the more seasoned groups around.

Said Rush center-mid-fielder Davin Garma: “We’ve come far as a team. I feel like being part of this team has already brought me success. I feel more comfortable on the field with this team than my last team.”

“We’re basically a family,” added captain Boogie Mattos of Ewa Beach. “We all know each other so well, and we treat each other well.”

Mattos helped Nike Rush to perhaps its biggest win of 2012 when his overtime goal put his team over the top in a 5-4 win over Mt. Hamilton Atlas of California at last year’s U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regionals in Phoenix. Mt. Hamilton had been the top-seed in the tournament, while Nike Rush was the last team into the championship bracket, having been seeded eighth.

Rush 99B Nike has been among the Islands’ best defensive teams under Fuller’s watch, led by veterans Mattos (Campbell High), Keenan Soares (Campbell High) and goal-keeper Rusty Crowder.

“We’ve definitely gotten a lot better (defensively) with some switches we’ve made – the experience last year helped them – and I like how we look,” Fuller said. “The people we have there (on defense) have made it easier to control the back.”

Rush 99B Nike also features Daniel Woo, Kawika Zarko, Garrison Lee, Noah Alejado, Ryan Watanabe, Elijah Sinykin, Akira Harris, Ikaia Chu, Dylan Cabalong, Jonathan Conner, Isaiah Duldulao, Shandon Hopeau, Christopher Jenkins and Luke Wyman.

Rush 99B Nike continues Regional play versus LVSA 99 Boys Red (Nevada) Wednesday at noon (on Field 8). Fuller’s team hopes to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals. The semifinals and championship will take place Friday and Saturday, respectively. The West Regional winner advances to the US Youth Soccer National Championships in Overland Park, Kan., July 22-28.

“Expectations are set, since we’ve been in big games before,” Fuller said. “If they just go out and play, I think they’ll be successful.”