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Cougars bring championship title to Stockton Arena

March 15, 2009 - Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL) - California Cougars News Release

STOCKTON, Calif. - March 15, 2009 - Playing with renewed youth, Stockton head coach/forward Bernie Lilavois - and his veteran core of Aaron Susi, Ato Leone, Antonio Sutton and Brian Farber - led the Cougars to the inaugural Professional Arena Soccer League Championship title on Sunday 13-5 over 1790 Cincinnati at Stockton Arena.

Susi, Leone and Lilavois combined for nine of Stockton's 13 goals against top seeded Cincinnati. Susi, who scored the golden goal game winner on Saturday night to push Stockton into the Championship match, finished with three goals in Sunday's match and accounted for the game winner.

Lilavois led all scorers in the tournament with 11 points, including four goals and seven assists.

"I'm truly excited for all of our boys," said Lilavois. "They truly deserved this championship after the ups and downs this organization has gone through over the year. I'm extremely proud of their efforts all season long and especially winning it here at home in front of our loyal fans and the great city of Stockton."

Stockton goalkeeper Jesus Molina was named Playoff MVP for his heroic play in Saturday's 10-9 overtime win against the Edmonton Drillers and his strong second quarter today that kept Stockton in the game before the offense put the outcome out of reach early in the third quarter.

"It was the work of my defense," said Molina. "They worked together and were able to keep the score low for me. "I'm so happy, we were thinking about winning the championship since training camp and we worked hard to get it." Molina saved 16 of 21 shots faced in the Championship win.

Cincinnati took an early 1-0 lead on Sam Fiore's goal at 2:49, but the Cougars answered with four straight goals and never relinquished their lead.

Farber, the league's most valuable player, had a goal and two assists and four blocks in the match.

The first half ended with the Cougars in command at 5-2 and that score held up until Susi's first goal of the game at 8:29 of the third quarter. The floodgates opened from there with Leone, Susi, and Majell Aterado scoring in short order to balloon the lead to 9-2.

Stockton finished the regular season with a 12-4 PASL-Pro record, one game off league leader Cincinnati who won the Eastern Division with a 13-3 record. Overall the Cougars finished the season with a 16-6 mark.

Stockton edged Edmonton 10-9 in overtime and Cincinnati beat Tigres Dorados MRCI Oaxaca 10-6 to advance to today's championship game.

Jeff Henderson had a standout day for Cincinnati with 11 blocks. 1790 was without player/coach Craig Rhodis who aggravated an injury in Saturday's game.

Following the game PASL-Pro Commissioner Kevin Milliken thanks both clubs for a hard fought game and a brilliant first season. He then presented the Playoff MVP to Molina, which he also did after the second PASL-Premier national tournament in 1999 when Molina was with Santa Rosa.

He then called out Cougars owner Jim Rachels to accept the PASL-Pro Championship Trophy.

The championship is the first for Stockton in their four-year history. This year marked the first time that the Western Division championship Cougars have qualified for postseason.

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