MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- When the Combat Center soccer league began, the slate was clear. All of the teams were seen as equals. Players were ready to represent their units and ultimately battle for the indoor-soccer championship. All the teams fought head-to-head during the season. There were big wins, upsets, and a couple of standout players, but with the season coming to a close, only the top eight teams will move on to the playoffs.
With the intense playoff competition and the pace of the sport, the results may be surprising. Taking an outdoor sport and moving it indoors changes the dynamics.
“Indoor soccer is unique,” said Cpl. Hugo Antunez, defender, Headquarters Battalion Team 2. “It is very fast and requires a lot of skill. It is a lot of fun to be able to play with Marines in my unit and have the chance to compete for a championship.”
This year’s season was the second the Combat Center has hosted.
“There was a big turnout this year,” said Jillian Stoker, coordinator, Semper Fit, Marine Corps Community Services. “Last year, we had a good turnout by having nine teams but this year we almost doubled it by having 16.”
With 16 teams competing for the same trophy, competition was intense. There were a few teams who rose above the others and showed they had their eyes on the prize. Headquarters Battalion Team Two was the top team of the league. In seven regular-season games, HQBN Team Two scored 92 goals, gave up 14 goals and were undefeated.
The second seeded team was "Mollie Whoppers," who are also from HQBN, but were placed in a separate bracket from HQBN Team Two. The "Mollie Whoppers" scored 70 goals and gave up 8 throughout their regular season. They were also undefeated.
The third team amongst the elite was Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School Team One. They scored 57 goals and gave up 19. MCCES Team One’s season consisted of only one loss to HQBN Team Two.
“When you read the scores or rankings, you see team names, not individual players,” said Lance Cpl. Thomas Salukombo, forward, HQBN Team Two. “It is an honor to be amongst the top goal scorers, but it is my team who makes me look good. We are all in this together.”
Soccer is a team sport but sometimes there are key players among the team. Every role is important, but those who score goals help their team advance to the next level. The league’s top three goal scorers are Alejandro Bedoya, HQBN Team Two, 37 goals, Thomas Salukombo, HQBN Team Two, 25 goals, and Hugo Vargas, "Mollie Whoppers," 24 goals. The top three goal scorers happen to be from the two teams who are in the championship round.
HQBN Team Two and "Mollie Whoppers" faced off Thursday for the championship. Supporters from all around the Combat Center came to cheer on the two teams competing.
“We didn’t get a chance to compete in the playoffs,” said Cpl. Samuel Duncan, forward, "The Mob." “But I am still going to try and watch the playoffs. I am excited to see who will walk away with the trophy.”
After four weeks of fierce competition, the playoffs are also coming to a close. Each goal is worth more than just a point. Each goal will get that team one step closer to the championship.
For more information on the winners of the Combat Center’s indoor soccer league championship, see next week’s Observation Post.