Three years in, the Green Fields Invitational has blossomed into two days of hard-fought, coed, small-school soccer.
“I love this tournament, it is all about sportsmanship,” said Green Fields Country Day School head coach Jorge Guarín.
Last weekend’s fray included four other teams from across Arizona: Tempe’s Tri-City Christian Academy, Willcox High School, Academy of Tucson and Immaculate Heart High School.
Willcox’s Cowboys, tournament champs the last two years, wasted no time in cementing another victory, allowing only one score the entire competition and placing four players on the honorary 11-person all-invitational team.
As the only 2A school present, the Cowboys’ Sammy Oscar and Alexis Ubiarco led a display of precision passing-and-shooting skills.
“Everybody gets involved, it is great early season experience,” said Willcox head coach Patrick McCumber.
Other squads, like Michael Nickles’ Immaculate Heart team, found the going much tougher.
“There is no one here that can play them,” Nickles said, whose team lost 13-0 to the Cowboys on Saturday.
Green Fields survived some close games and a rough-and-physical 1-1 tie with Tri-City to finish in second place.
During that game, standout Green Fields defender Josh Shaffner went for a header and collided with an opposing player, leaving him dazed and bloody, halting play for about 10 minutes.
That gusto marked the Griffins’ theme, as tough defensive play limited opponents’ scoring opportunities, much of it orchestrated by Griffins defender Marissa Lopez-Pier.
“This tournament is a chance for us to improve and come together,” said Lopez-Pier, who was awarded a spot on the all-invitational team, along with two other Griffins.
“(The girls) are tough,” Guarin said of Lopez-Pier. “In soccer there is no gender, you don’t see male or female, you just see a player.”
Though Immaculate Heart finished winless in last place, Nickles has hope for the future.
“We are a young team, all freshmen except our goalie,” said Nickles, “Our team is finally coming together and talking to each other.”
Knights’ goalkeeper Matt Duran was the lone Immaculate Heart athlete to make the all-invitational team.
Wins and losses aside, the tournament elicited a desire for more from players and coaches.
“We love coming here,” McCumber said. “It is a really nice field, and all the guys get to be involved. If we’re invited back (next year), we’ll be here.”
Guarin offered reason for the invitational’s appeal.
“This is not about wins or losses. Coaches only care about wins, teachers want their players to learn,” Guarin said. “Here I am not a coach, I am a teacher.”