(ran PAS edition)
It's not just numbers anymore.
Having swelled to more than 700 players, the Central Pasco United Soccer Association now can boast about the quality of its teams.
The CPUSA revealed just how talented some of its teams are by winning the overall league championship in the eighth annual Sunshine Cup, hosted by the Hudson Youth Soccer Association.
The Land O'Lakes-based league listed three champions and two runners-up in last weekend's recreational tournament, which included 10 leagues and 93 teams.
That makes it a record three tournament crowns this season for the CPUSA, which also fielded the most first-place and second-place teams at the Z-Cup in January and at the inaugural Land O'Lakes Kickoff Classic in November.
"I think the seeds were planted a long time ago by my predecessors," said CPUSA president Tim Hayes, who followed Bruce Martin and Frank Barthel in that role. "I am just enjoying the fruits of their labor."
The two most notable performances were turned in by the U-12 Girls Diamonds (19-1-3), who narrowly defeated the West Citrus Tornadoes, and the U-8 Pythons, who capped an unbeaten season by claiming their third straight divisional title in the Sunshine Cup.
The U-8 Girls Panthers, who topped the CPUSA rival Cobras, represented the other championship team from Land O'Lakes. The Wild Girls were runners-up in the U-10 Girls Division.
"That really tells you that your U-6 program is producing some great kids," Hayes said of the youngest level where boys and girls first start in the CPUSA.
The Diamonds clearly were the most dominant team from Land O'Lakes this season, having outscored opponents by a 114-14 margin.
It was a little closer against West Citrus with the Diamonds eking out a win on Cassie Poyssick's corner kick in overtime. Poyssick, who led the Diamonds with 40 goals this season, and Elizabeth Melsheimer scored in regulation.
Erin Dafeldecker, who ended the season with 32 goals, found the back of the net four times in a 5-1 semifinal win over the West Pasco Storm.
Also contributing to the Diamonds' success were goalkeeper Lisa Guttierrez, who posted 14 shutouts this season, and defenders Danielle Anderson and Amanda Gulino.
The Pythons downed the Hudson Gators 2-1 in their title tilt to close out the season at 23-0-1. Garrett Rhodes converted passes from Jesse Crews for both goals.
Coach Rusty Crews lauded the tournament play of keeper Rocco Taliani and defenders Elijah Dedmon and Justin Rice.
Despite his team's outstanding record, coach Crews said, "My kids weren't the type of kids who were better than anybody else. They worked harder than anybody else."
The Panthers topped the Cobras 6-2 in an all-CPUSA U-8 Girls final. Kimberly Eberhard and Alex Sarich each scored twice for the Panthers, who also got single tallies from Jackie Tate and Kaily Kuhl.
Samantha Kohen and Karley Maskavich had the Cobra goals.
Coach David Eberhard said a key to the Panthers' victory was having players who heeded instructions from the sidelines and who could play any position at any time.
The Cobras got contributions from other players as well. Namely, Sarah Hughes, Kaley Robinson, Samantha Howell, Angla Taliani and Allison Howard.
The Wild Girls also reached the finals, but were shut out 3-0 by the West Pasco Storm.
_ If you have youth sports news, call Steve Lee at 225-3342.