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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | BOYS' SOCCER PLAYER
OF THE YEAR

Erush Kept Birmingham in the Hunt

Senior's leadership helped Patriots overcome suspensions, injuries to reach City Section semifinals.

March 31, 2000|CHRIS SHAFFER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Mike Erush's pain was evident.

After a 1-0 loss to Roosevelt in the City Section semifinals, the Birmingham defender sat alone on a splintered bench with his hands on his knees, his chin in his chest and tears streaming down his face.

But Erush's emotions were hidden by a shirt hung over his head. His dream had abruptly come to an end.

"We wanted to win the City Championship from the beginning and we came up short," said Erush, a member of the under-18 U.S. national team. "It was devastating to finish the season the way we did."

Erush's sorrow wasn't necessary, because if not for his leadership and stability during a turbulent season, Birmingham could have been a disaster.

Instead, Erush led the Patriots to a 19-5-3 record and has been selected The Times' region player of the year.

The season started with nine Patriots suspended for playing in outside leagues during the high school season. Coach Jose Freire announced his retirement out of frustration over the suspensions.

As the season progressed, numerous injuries created holes in the lineup. But Birmingham won the West Valley League title and was awarded the No. 1 seeding in the City playoffs.

However, the Patriots suffered another blow when John Ortega, the team's top offensive threat, missed the semifinal because of a red-card suspension.

Erush refused to allow distractions to sink his senior year. He concentrated on keeping the Patriots afloat.

"I was the one that brought the team together," Erush said. "I told the team I wanted to be their leader. I told them I would do anything for them. I wanted them to take it serious."

His leadership was most evident in the postseason, when the stopper assisted on five of Birmingham's eight goals. With the Patriots trailing Monroe, 2-0, in the second round, Erush scored to ignite a 5-3 comeback victory that paved the way for Birmingham to reach the semifinals for the first time in school history.

"I'm still disappointed," said Erush, who scored 11 goals. "If the season was a success, we would have a ring. The season was experience for the younger guys to see what they need to do to become champions."

Erush's leadership helped the Patriots post two victories over 1999 City champion and West Valley League rival El Camino Real and win the Sylmar tournament championship.

"When they played us, he was probably the reason they won," Coach David Hussey of El Camino Real said. "He kept his team under control. He kept them focused. He knew exactly what needed to be done."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Soccer Top 10

Final rankings of teams from

the region by Times sportswriters

BOYS

*--*

Rk School (League) Rec. 1 Birmingham (West Valley) 19-5-3 2 Ventura (Channel) 17-2-8 3 El Camino Real (West Valley) 20-5-5 4 St. Francis (Mission) 23-4-4 5 Thousand Oaks (Marmonte) 18-5-4 6 Buena (Channel) 18-5-4 7 Chaminade (Mission) 18-6-1 8 Calabasas (Frontier) 21-2-1 9 La Canada (Rio Hondo) 16-3-2 10 Royal (Marmonte) 20-8-3

*--*

*

GIRLS

*--*

Rk School (League) Rec. 1 Buena (Channel) 32-0 2 Chaminade (Mission) 23-4-4 3 Harvard-Westlake (Mission) 19-3-4 4 Westlake (Marmonte) 17-3-3 5 Chatsworth (West Valley) 17-3-1 6 Crescenta Valley (Pacific) 17-5-3 7 Hart (Foothill) 12-6-1 8 Quartz Hill (Golden) 20-2-2 9 Louisville (Mission) 14-6-9 10 Agoura (Marmonte) 13-5-2

*--*

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