Back in the game of soccer, and life
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By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Leila Wai
Scoring meant more than just a goal for Ben Teller of Woodland Hills, Calif.
Four months ago Teller was cleared to play after completing treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma, making his return to soccer an even more exceptional achievement.
"It was a sense of accomplishment; like I could be a normal kid again," said Teller, 19. "I could play soccer again. I take a lot of pride in knowing I could do what I did before."
Teller scored one of two goals in Woodland Hills' 2-0 win over 'Aiea in the quarterfinals of the boys 19-under division of the American Youth Soccer Organization's National Games yesterday afternoon at the Waipi'o Peninsula Soccer Park.
Pool play concluded yesterday morning, with each team playing five games. The top two teams from each pool advanced to the quarterfinals. 'Aiea finished first in its pool with a 5-0-1 record. Woodland Hills was second in another pool at 4-1-0.
The tournament ends today with semifinal games in the morning and championship games in the afternoon. Seventeen states and 181 teams are playing in the tournament.
Woodland Hills' Vince Scozzoro scored in the 23rd minute off a 30-yard free kick from Mo Bidari from the left side. Scozzoro redirected his header back into the left side of the goal.
Then Teller scored in the 26th minute after the ball popped into the air off another free kick by Bidari. Teller finished the play with a volley into the right side of the goal.
"It was the greatest feeling in the world," Teller said of his goal. "It felt good to help the team after not being able to run a year ago."
Teller, who has a 2 1/2-inch scar over his heart from surgery, was diagnosed with the cancer on Sept. 17, 2007. He is in remission after undergoing 12 treatments of chemotherapy and three surgeries, including a six-hour biopsy. After being cleared in March, he requested a special exemption to play in the National Games and it was granted. He plays just the mandatory two quarters that AYSO requires a player to play.
"I'm just taking it day-by-day, and living it one goal at a time," the University of California-Irvine student said.
"Hearing a story like that — it's inspiring," 'Aiea's Mark Atta said. "I wish him the best of luck."
It was a physical game, with one red card and a bloody lip.
"It was rough," Woodland Hills coach Martin Lugo said. "Number one, it's their age. It's their hormones and the testosterone, and at the end of the day it's about respect.
"It was a fantastic game. The Hawai'i team brought us a great game."
Atta agreed: "The other team played hard and I give them credit for showing sportsmanship."
Reach Leila Wai at firstname.lastname@example.org.