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VALLEY FOCUS | Encino

All-Star Soccer Team Preps for Jr. Olympics

July 22, 1998|EDWARD M. YOON

Practice makes perfect, even in sweltering heat.

Despite temperatures that rose above 100 degrees, the Balboa Park All Stars soccer team, made up of 9- and 10-year-old boys from the West Valley, was determined to perfect its passing and ball-handling skills at a recent practice in Encino.

"They're a great, great group of kids with great attitudes," said Penny Pourat, the All Stars' head coach.

The boys hope their hard work and dedication translate into gold medals at the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games Aug. 2-8 in Virginia Beach, Va.

Balboa Park, currently the top-ranked Division 5 boys soccer team in Los Angeles County, qualified for the Junior Olympics by finishing second in the American Youth Soccer Organization All-Star Trisectional competition in Upland in February.

In addition, the All Stars captured the bronze medal July 12 in the 16-team California State Games in San Diego.

"I think we have a good chance in the Junior Olympics because we're a very good team," said fullback David Updegrove, 10, who credited Pourat's coaching for the team's success.

Under Pourat's leadership, the All Stars have compiled a record of 39 wins, four losses and two ties since the team was assembled in November. Pourat was selected coach of the year by the AYSO, headquartered in Hawthorne.

"She's very encouraging," said center Joey Gottlieb, 10. "She teaches us all the fundamentals that we need and it works out very well in games."

Said Terry D'Ovideio, whose son Gianni, 9, is the team's midfielder: "Without Penny, we probably wouldn't be in this position today. She's a wonderful coach and she spent a lot of time and energy to put it all together."

In the final practices leading up to the Junior Olympics, the team will work primarily on shooting drills because two of Balboa Park's four losses came by way of penalty shootouts, Pourat said.

"I have faith in these kids' dedication and drive," Pourat said. " . . . I think we have a really good chance of bringing home the gold."

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