The game was tightly contested in the mid-field for several tense moments Sunday at Santa Rosa's Trione Fields. But then the ball came loose in front of Santa Rosa-based Nor Cal United player Ester Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, 52, of Fremont missed then regained the ball, and with a kick sent it soaring from about mid-field into the goal.
The score was 4-0, sealing the women's soccer championship at the Sonoma Wine Country Senior Games for Nor Cal United.
"Go Ester," whooped teammate Alison Grey of Santa Rosa.
Retired prosecutor Grey, 48, was on the sidelines Sunday as her teammates competed in the third annual Senior Games hosted by the local nonprofit Council on Aging.
About 1,000 athletes ages 50 and older participated in 17 sports during the tournament. Games started May 30 and closed Sunday, featuring events ranging from archery, bocce ball and square dancing to cycling, volleyball and softball.
This year organizers added track and field and horseshoe competitions.
Games were held in venues across Sonoma County, from an archery range at Lake Sonoma to the softball fields at Petaluma's Prince Park.
Competitors showcased a wide range of athleticism. Many shattered stereotypes of their ages, including a 92-year-old tennis player and several 80-year-olds who competed in pole vaulting, said Amy Crabb, the council's development manger.
Sixteen athletes surpassed all-American times in their sports during the tournament, Crabb said. One swimmer in the 65-69 age group missed the national record for his age by just a tenth of a second.
"To most people in the Senior Games, age is just a number," Crabb said.
Like Gonzalez, several players on Nor Cal United took up soccer after watching their children play.
"One day the other team didn't show, so we played against the kids," said Teri Simpson, 65, of Santa Rosa said of the adults.
She was hooked.
Simpson, who retired from Hewlett-Packard, was the Senior Games' commissioner for women's soccer. Twelve teams brought players from as far as Hawaii and Washington and from cities across California.
With several minutes to go after Gonzalez' goal, Nor Cal United still had to defend their 4-0 lead against the Usual Suspects, a team with players from across the Bay Area, primarily the South Bay.
Spectator Nick Uribe, 57, of Cloverdale watched No. 12, his girlfriend Laura Waterhouse, 50.
"It's a good game, a lot of ball handling and passing," said Uribe, who with Waterhouse owns Yogurtdale Blvd on North Cloverdale Boulevard.
Waterhouse later said she took time off from her roller derby team to focus on soccer.
The Usual Suspects pressed hard in the final moments.
But they just couldn't get past Nor Cal United's keeper Patty Palmer<NO1><NO> of Seattle, who joined the team after meeting them at a tournament in Mexico.
Then Simpson got the ball.
"I passed the ball down-field, out of our goal area, they were pressing hard," Simpson said.
"Then the whistle blew," said Karen McGinn, 57, of Windsor, a dental hygienist. "We felt relief."
The Santa Rosa team nabbed the championship medal.
[END_CREDIT_0]You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jjpressdem.
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