Empire roundup: Freeze competing for national honors


The Santa Rosa United U15 Freeze girls soccer team is in Aurora, Colo. this weekend competing in the 32-team Elite Clubs National League playoff tournament.

Seeded ninth in its division, the Freeze were assigned to a four-team division in a World Cup-style draw, with 19th-rated FC Virginia National, 29th-rated Sporting Blue Valley from Kansas and No. 1-rated Dallas Sting. The Freeze have defeated the sting once this season — a 4-1 win in February at a tournament in Fresno, Texas.

The winner of each of the four divisions advances to the ECNL Finals tournament in Richmond, Va., in July.

The Freeze, which qualified for the national playoff by winning the Northwest Conference, plays FC Virginia today, Sporting Blue Valley on Saturday and Dallas on Sunday.

Madison Gonzalez, with 14 goals and 10 assists, and Taylor Ziemer, with 12 goals and 11 assists, were the Freeze’s leading scorers this season.

The team posted a 9-2-3 record to win the Northwest Conference, which comprises six Bay Area teams and two from the Seattle area.

The Freeze are coached by former Santa Rosa Junior College women’s coach Luke Oberkirch.

Also in Colorado this weekend from Santa Rosa United are its U16 Blizzard and U17 Shock teams, which are competing in the North American tournament.


Former Sonoma State ace pitcher Harmen Sidhu was as sharp in the classroom as on the mound.

Now a Tampa Bay Rays prospect, Sidhu was named Male Scholar Athlete of the Year for the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

Sidhu graduated Magna Cum Laude from Sonoma State in May. He finished with a 3.54 grade point average in completing a bachelor’s degree in communication studies.

Earlier, the Martinez native was named to the Capital One Division II Academic All-District Baseball Team. Sidhu was one of 11 players selected to the team representing the West region.

On the mound, Sidhu was named a first-team athlete at the conference, regional and national levels. Sidhu capped the honors with the Tino Martinez Award given to the top player in NCAA Division II baseball.

In going 10-1 on the season, Sidhu posted the nation’s lowest earned run average at 0.98 and now holds the conference career mark with a 1.56 ERA.


Back in the Empire to join Sonoma State women’s soccer is Crystal Howard, one of the region’s all-time great prep and college players.

Howard will assist Seawolves’ coach Emiria Salzmann Dunn as Sonoma State seeks an eventual return to the NCAA Division II tournament.

A Montgomery High standout and Sonoma State record holder, Howard has held several coaching posts.

Most recently Howard, 30, was an assistant at Sierra College, helping lead Sierra to the California Community College Athletic Association championship match this past season.

Prior to that, she was an assistant for Salzmann Dunn at Santa Rosa Junior College over three seasons, including a state runners-up finish. Howard also led the girl’s program at El Molino High School for two years.

As a Montgomery senior, Howard earned a North Coast Section Player of the Year honor.

Howard then played four seasons at Sonoma State. A first-team and all-region selection her first and last years, Howard was a playmaker and still holds the Sonoma State career assists record.

After playing semi-pro soccer with the Sonoma County Sol, she went into coaching full time.

Howard is a 2005 graduate of Sonoma State and is seeking a master’s degree at the college.

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