With all the good teams in the Simi Valley High girls' soccer tournament, you would think talk would center on which one was the best or who was the most impressive player.
But the most-discussed topic was scheduling. Specifically, why were Louisville and Buena, two of the region's top teams, facing each other in the first round and why was Simi Valley in a bracket with weaker teams?
"Tough luck," said tournament director and Simi Coach Mark Johnson. "People don't get to decide who they play. I get complaints like this every year. I don't know who these teams are. I have 32 teams in the tournament."
The popular tournament featured five of The Times' Top 10 ranked teams, but four other ranked teams decided against playing in the tournament because of what they termed poor scheduling.
Coaches of Crescenta Valley, Harvard-Westlake, Chaminade and Ventura said they won't return to the tournament.
"Simi has the only show in town so they can do whatever they want," said Bud Dain, coach of Crescenta Valley.
So why were Buena and Louisville matched in the first round? Johnson said he didn't know Louisville was a good team.
That's hard to understand, considering scores of soccer games are in the papers daily, something most coaches read to check up on the competition.
And it's not like the schedule was made before the season started. Coaches received their final schedules less than two weeks ago.
Johnson said the bracketing is based on past performances in the tournament and is set up so the teams from out of the region don't have to play early games. The teams that are geographically far are placed in the bottom bracket.
Simi Valley was 1-2-1 coming into the tournament, but reached the semifinals in one of the toughest tournaments around. Maybe Simi Valley is one of the top teams in the region, or maybe the scheduling helped.
Simi Valley had a first-round game with Pasadena, the doormat of the Pacific League, a second-round game with Calabasas, which entered the tournament 1-3, and a quarterfinal game with Notre Dame, which was 3-6.
"My bracket wasn't strong. I'm aware of that now," Johnson said.
The tournament is great and something almost everybody looks forward to each year, but it could be improved with more equitable scheduling.
Buena's toughest game ended up being a 1-1 tie with Louisville, a game Buena won in penalty kicks. Louisville and Buena would have been a great championship game. Instead, it was a first-round matchup.
A highly anticipated game between El Camino Real and St. Francis was cut short when the referee left. Before halftime, a St. Francis defender received a red card for a dangerous slide tackle.
When St. Francis Coach Glen Appels calmly approached the referee at halftime and asked him why the red card was issued, he was ejected. The referee then walked to midfield and blew his whistle and both teams took the field to finish the game, but the referee ran to his car and drove away.
Officially, the game ended in a 1-1 tie. For fun, the teams organized a round of shootouts, which St. Francis won, 5-4.
"It was bizarre," Appels said. "The kids were stunned, the fans were stunned. We still don't know what happened."
Nearly the entire second half of Chatsworth's game against Mira Costa on Monday was played in the dark, without lights. It got so difficult to see, Chatsworth players asked to play with an orange ball.
Coach Patty Perkinson of Mira Costa asked the referee to call the game, but he said it was only fair to both teams if it was played in its entirety. Chatsworth lost, 4-2.
"It's easier to see the orange ball," Chatsworth forward Jenna Fodor said. "It was dark. It was hard to see."
Midfielder Molly Cahan of Harvard-Westlake committed to Brown, teammates Alice Graham committed to Dartmouth and Brandi Thompson will play for Claremont-Mudd.
Jessica Reyes of Flintridge-Sacred Heart will play for Colorado College.
To improve team speed, Coach Mike Ishihara of Ventura has his girls practicing in the school's gym.
"It makes us better," Ishihara said. "It picks up our speed of play."
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The Top 10
Rankings of region soccer teams
RK LW School (League) Rec. 1 5 Buena (Channel) 7-3-1 2 1 El Camino Real (West Vly) 5-1-2 3 3 Reseda (Valley Mission) 2-0-1 4 NR Simi Valley (Marmonte) 6-1 5 2 St. Francis (Mission) 6-2-2 6 4 Ventura (Channel) 10-1-1 7 6 Birmingham (Vly Mission) 2-3-1 8 8 Calabasas (Frontier) 10-0-1 9 9 La Canada (Rio Hondo) 7-1 10 7 Hart (Foothill) 10-4-1
RK LW School (League) Rec. 1 2 Buena (Channel) 13-0 2 1 Harvard-Westlake (Mission) 8-0-2 3 3 Westlake (Marmonte) 7-1-2 4 4 Louisville (Mission) 8-1-5 5 9 Chaminade (Mission) 7-2-1 6 5 Hart (Foothill) 2-2 7 7 Ventura (Channel) 8-2-1 8 10 Crescenta Valley (Pacific) 6-2-2 9 NR Quartz Hill (Golden) 9-1 10 8 Chatsworth (West Valley) 4-3