COSTA MESA — Last year, the Kaiser Elementary girls' third- and fourth-grade gold division team won the championship at the Daily Pilot Cup, the school's first title at the annual tournament in nine years.
Kaiser would like to again be successful in the division this year, but Coach Jayme Amirie knows other teams in the division don't necessarily feel the same way toward his squad. Nor do they care that this year's Kaiser team has just one returner from last year's title team — Amirie's daughter, Jasmine.
"We've got to keep up the pressure," Jayme Amirie said Tuesday, after his team beat the Pegasus School, 4-1, in its tournament opener at Jack Hammett Sports Complex. "We beat Newport Heights in a penalty [shootout] last year. There were like 50 people on each side of the field going crazy. I know Newport Heights is gunning for us too."
A rematch would have to be in the finals, because Newport Heights is not in Kaiser's three-team pool. But what opponents of Kaiser are going to discover is that Hailey Simon is a force to be reckoned with.
Simon, a third-grader, scored three goals for a hat trick in Tuesday's game. She said she has had hat tricks before, in AYSO Select and All-Star competition, but she enjoyed her Daily Pilot Cup debut.
So did another talented third-grader for Kaiser, Kaitin Degen. The left-footed striker assisted Simon's first two goals and also scored the game's final goal, right at the end on a pass from Emme Maskrey.
"We had possession, and we crossed and passed a lot," said Degen, who plays club soccer for Newport-Beach based Slammers FC. "I think we can do a lot better."
Kaiser was impressive. Kaycee Kontra also nearly scored a goal, and Leah Beehler made a nice cross in front of the cage. Defensively, the Knights were stout, led by Makenzie Trigo, sweeper Elizabeth Peters and goalie Jacqueline Nowak (five saves).
Nowak's last name might be familiar. Her older sister, Sami, was the keeper for last year's championship team. Sami has moved up in the tournament as a fifth-grader but she was there Tuesday, encouraging her sister and even serving as a volunteer line judge.
Jayme Amirie said he was impressed the girls kept their composure after Pegasus' Ashley Sung gave her team the early lead in the opening minutes.
"Girls this age aren't good at passing the ball, and that's what we've really worked on, passing the ball," Amirie said. "They did a lot today. For 10-year-old girls, they really move the ball well."
Jasmine Amirie, Jenna O'Shea and Ava Glassen also contributed for Kaiser, which plays Lincoln in its next pool-play game on Thursday.
Pegasus goalies Tess Sikorski (two saves) and Delaney Weiss (three saves) kept Kaiser at bay for much of the contest, as the score was just 2-1 late into the second half. Shea Hueston and Mia Conti also excelled for Pegasus.
"[Kaiser] played well," said Pegasus Coach Jim Conti, whose team also plays Lincoln on Wednesday. "I thought it was a well-played game, for sure. Both teams were pretty solid."