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PAL Sparks Shine in San Diego

The Santa Clara PAL 8U softball squad returned this week from a weekend at the California State Games in San Diego. The 8U Sparks Gold team qualified for the state games by finishing in second place out of 17 teams in the NorCal tournament back in June. The team gathered immediately after the NorCal tournament to figure out logistics of getting the girls down to San Diego. Between carpooling and flying, the team was able to get 11 of their 13 rostered players down to the southern tip of California for quite the memorable experience.

The Sparks would play just one game in the elimination round after the two-game round robin, the team they lost to would go all the way to the championship in a tournament that included 30 teams from all over California. While they would have preferred to go further, being beaten by one of the two championship participants is definitely worth hanging their hat on. Plus, for these second and third graders, it was all about the experience.

The tournament’s opening ceremonies were held at Pechanga Arena, home to the American Hockey League team San Diego Gulls and Indoor Football League team San Diego Strike Force. Perhaps the most common highlight of the weekend for the Sparks players was getting on the jumbotron.

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“They were all very excited,” remarked Head Coach Maya Plancarte on the girls’ time in San Diego. “This was a lot of their first times making an all star team. And then walking into an arena and seeing themselves on the jumbotron, that was priceless to see their faces and their excitement.”

“It was fun to see myself on a jumbotron for once because I have never seen that before,” chimed Anna Woon, who pitched and played first base most of the tournament, but her favorite play was when she ran down a fly ball. “I did catch a flyball that I had to sprint to and that was a really good feeling making that play that not a lot of players often make.”

“I made one play at second base, I really liked that,” added Alice Yarza on her highlight on the field before adding how much fun she had off the field with the team. “And it was fun at the hotel playing with my team every night in the pool.”

“I had very nice fielding at shortstop,” noted Sabrina Azim. “I was fielding a ball and I threw it to first and I got two outs.”

Like her teammates, Azim also mentioned how much fun they had in the pool, trying to touch the bottom of the deep end. It truly was a team bonding event, capping off a long summer of exciting softball.

The 8U Sparks had a 13-player roster with six coaches. Joining Azim, Yarza and Woon on the player roster were Noemi Plancarte, Mariella Flora, Lily Salazar, Madeline Joy Rius, Gianna Garrotto, Madelyn Cruz, Everly Malae, Sophia Flores-Rios, Frazier Henry and Kyleigh Bertron. Alongside Head Coach Plancate were assistants Jorge Mier, Nikki Yarza, Daniel Cruz, Rafael Rius and Matt Henry, with Heather Woon serving as team mom.

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