The Under-10 Diablos soccer team that represented the El Paso region at the American Youth Soccer Organization National Games in Knoxville, Tenn., came home with a silver medal in the second division championship.
The team finished 3-3 in the tournament, ending a journey that started in November when about 20 players tried out for AYSO 368. Parents and players said going to Tennessee was the trip of a lifetime.
It started at the El Paso International Airport at 5 a.m., which made for an early day and a long flight.
But once the team landed in Knoxville, the players couldn't contain their excitement. Right there at the airport they saw several teams from different states, including one from Hawaii.
AYSO representatives made the trip more enjoyable by escorting teams to Nashville attractions, including the University of Tennessee, the Knoxville Zoo and World's Fair Park, where giant fountains and tall buildings overlooking downtown greeted them.
After taking in the sights and great food of Knoxville, it was time to do what we came to do - play soccer.
The first day was dedicated to AYSO's Soccerfest, where players were split into different teams and given the opportunity to play with boys from other teams and for other coaches, hopefully to learn some new things.
AYSO likes players to mingle to encourage good sportsmanship.
The boys were given jerseys for their "new" teams and played two games that day.
After the games, there was a pin exchange, also an AYSO National Games tradition.
Day two was hot and sticky, but when you win the first game, it's easy to forget the weather.
Goalie Nathan Hilton stood out as he made several great saves in the box on the first day of tournament play. In that opening day win, Gabriel Escobedo scored on a header off a corner kick for the first time.
The next day was harder; as the tournament moved forward, the teams became more challenging. The team lost 2-1 to a team from California. After being down 2-0, the Diablos comeback fell short.
In the second game of bracket play, Joshua Anzures showed how lethal his left foot is as he powered through several goals to beat a team from Knoxville.
On the final day, the players were visibly tired. Having endured high temperatures and humidity, it was obvious this tournament was taking its toll.
The next game was perhaps the most disappointing, as the Diablos stacked up three goals before the half but were overtaken by a determined Florida team that fought back and won 4-3.
The team's most versatile defender, Isaac Bueno, played his very best in that game but it wasn't enough.
Tired and hot, the coaches gave the players a pep talk and sent them on their way to play the final game.
The Diablos were quick to react with cheers and played their best game of the tournament.
The entire team played good, clean soccer. Angel Carrasco stood out. He played the entire game without rest and came through with an assist to his cousin Joel Chavirra, who calmly and coolly scored the game-winning goal.
The two AYSO leagues - Region 272 and Region 368 - are now signing up players for the fall season.
For information on AYSO 368, call 241-5307 or ayso368.clubspaces.com.
For information on AYSO 272, go to ayso272.org.