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Daily Pilot

12th Annual Daily Pilot Cup

Harbor Day encore

Talented core moves up from silver to gold, again beating Whittier in boys' 3-4 gold title match.

By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com

11:10 PM PDT, June 5, 2011

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COSTA MESA — When it comes to winning Daily Pilot Cup trophies, a group of talented soccer players from Harbor Day School is now two-for-two.

The players made sure of that Sunday afternoon at the Farm Sports Complex with a big team effort.

Harbor Day got goals from four different players, capturing the boys' third- and fourth-grade gold division championship with a 4-1 victory over Whittier.

The game was a rematch of sorts, as Harbor Day won last year's third- and fourth-grade silver division title over Whittier, 6-0. Harbor Day played with virtually the same roster this year and the kids, now all fourth graders, again stepped up to the challenge.

"To me the key to this game, and every game we played, was the teamwork," Harbor Day Coach Adam Muchnick said. "They played completely together as a team. They hustled to the ball and they won the 50-50 balls. If you watch a game and you see who's winning the 50-50 balls and who's hustling more, usually that's going to be the team that comes out on top."

His team hustled in the early-going. Corbin Vaicek found the back of the net in the opening minutes, assisted by Gunnar Gehl. Moments later it was Muchnick's son, Jacob, who scored to give Harbor Day an early 2-0 advantage.

The "Jake rabbit," as he's sometimes called by his mother, Cindy, did not stick around too long after the game. The standout had a 6 p.m. game at the Legends Cup in Chino with his Los Angeles Galaxy Youth Academy team. Muchnick, 10, has been on the under-12 team for the past few weeks and he trains where the professional Galaxy play, at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Muchnick, who scored 14 of Harbor Day's 25 goals in the Pilot Cup, won his tournament in Chino Sunday night as well. It made for a lot of driving back and forth all weekend, but Jacob said he wouldn't miss the tournament with his school friends.

"I think we played really well," he said. "Throughout the whole tournament, we got better and better each game. I think that [championship game] was our best game of the tournament."

Harbor Day took a 2-0 lead into halftime and kept pestering Whittier goalie Miguel Licona, who made four saves, after intermission. Matteo Merage scored next, knocking it away from Licona and into the net after a Harbor Day corner kick.

Peter Shea provided the final goal midway through the half.

"We hustled a lot," Shea said. "If we didn't, then we would have lost. We just tried to win as many 50-50 balls as we could. We worked as a team to try to win this. It wasn't just one player who tried to win every time."

Whittier prevented the shutout late in the second half, when Danny Avila converted a penalty kick. But Coach Edmundo Ortiz saw the scoring chances limited for his best forwards, Avila and Carlos Guerrero.

The reason was simple to Guerrero.

"They kept tackling me," he said.

Solomon Sonenshine, Johnny King and James McConnaughey helped anchor the Harbor Day defense, as did goalies Jake Hamilton (four saves) and Gehl. Harbor Day gave up just four combined goals all tournament.

Harbor Day's Cameron Schwartz and Zack Karro helped keep the pressure on the Whittier defense and Aiden Rodriguez, Nick Walkow, Matthew Ueberroth and George Knapp also contributed for the winners.

Tessa Montgomery, Jenny King, Emery Rolfes and Clarissa Sargeant were some of the very supportive girls who helped cheer Harbor Day to victory.

Sebastian Gonzalez, Gabriel Solano, Ricardo Arce, Jose Ortiz, Giovanni Guzman, Brian Rodriguez, Alexis Leon, Angel Ariza and Jesus Garcia also helped Whittier make the final.