The Delta River Rats field two 16U teams – Red and Black – and one team each for the 14U, 12U, 10U, and 8U levels. As of press time, not every age level has played. The 12U team has been the most successful of the teams thus far, as they won the Tier 2 AA division and earned a Gold Cup title.
“I’m really proud of the way that the kids have been playing,” said Coach Steve Fosenburg, who leads the 10U team. “A lot of the teams here think it’s ice hockey and are really hitting. But our teams are holding their own, not retaliating or fighting.”
As of now, the 12U is the only team to have won its division. Still, the two 16U teams also fared well, notably the Red team, which made an unexpected run to the quarterfinals. The Black team played tough games against squads from Colorado and Canada, but fielding only six players, lost to a California team.
The 8U, one of the top teams in Northern California – and one of the youngest (comprising mostly 7-year-olds) – is expected to make a strong run.
“It’s really interesting,” Fosenburg noted. “The 16-year-olds have been to just about every major tournament and know it’s probably the end of the road. But for a lot of younger kids, it’s brand new. They get to see International teams. The experience for them is great.”
In addition to the River Rats, the Junior Olympics also features regional All-Star teams. The All-Star tournament’s structure is similar to the Little League World Series’, where the top players from different regions join forces to play against other regions’ top performers. The best teams there move on to compete against the top International squads.
A few East County players, already members of their respective age group’s All-Star squads, declined an invitation to the All-Star team, or team USA, due to prior engagements: Kyle Aldrich, Donny Carter, Ben Kozakiewicz, Madison Fosenburg, Derek Ellingson, Austin Blair, Anthony Carter, Joe Merkel, Jacob Simpson, Hayden Kraft, Gabel Longshore and Schuyler MacDonald.
While the kids are given the opportunity to meet players from other countries, the bulk of their attention is on competition. Over the course of a few days, each team plays up to 12 games that run roughly 40 minutes.
The Junior Olympics run through the end of the week. Play is scheduled to wrap up on Sunday, July 10.