The US Youth Soccer National League U15, U16, U17 and U18 Girls celebrated the new year by showcasing their talents in meaningful and competitive matches Sunday at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., in conjunction with the Disney Soccer Showcase.
Each division is represented by four of the league's eight teams per division age group this weekend, with the exception of all 12 U18 teams who have finalized their division standings and will play the same seed from the opposite division Monday for outright league standings. This weekend of play will finalize league standings for the U15, U16 and U17 groups until the remaining four teams per division age group compete in Las Vegas, Nev., March 23-25.
With one day of play still remaining in Orlando, no division championships other than the U18's can be determined until play resumes in Las Vegas in March, a testament to the level of competition of each and every team who earned their spot to compete in the National League.
The U18 Girls group finalized division standings Sunday with FC Pennsylvania Strikers (E-PA) claiming the Blue division and Toro Bravo (NE) the Red. Both teams have made prior National Championships appearances, with Toro Bravo claiming a Region II Championship and FC Pennsylvania claiming a National League slot in the 2008-2009 season, as well as the Region I Championship last year.
FC Pennsylvania has qualified for the National League in each season since their U15 year, and coach David Shaw expressed his feelings when asked about the experience of playing in the league.
"Fantastic. National League is a collection of the best teams in the country. If you look at the teams that are playing in the National League this year and look at the ones that were playing in the National and Regional Championships last year, they're pretty much all the same teams. It's great competition up and down the line, great coaching, you can't beat it."
"In order to develop as a player and as a team you have to measure yourself by playing against the best competition out there. Playing in the National League gives you that opportunity to go out and play against the best, and if you're on top of your game you'll have success and if you're not you won't, and that's what it should be all about. It teaches you that success comes from hard work and that's the way life is too."
"This team has won the Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup for five years in a row, they've won regionals twice, been a National League representative at Nationals once, and I think that comes from teaching them things even outside of soccer. Learn to try your best and you earn success from hard work and trying your best."
National League teams are club soccer teams with an individual proven track record of success in US Youth Soccer regional and national competitions, and are among the nation's best. Games are being played in conjunction with the Disney Soccer Showcase, creating another significant opportunity for the nation's collegiate and National Team coaches to see National League players in an environment of meaningful play, citing the competitive level of each game as every team has to earn their spot in the competition, regardless of hometown or club affiliation.
The league is an extension of the highly successful US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues (US Youth Soccer Region I Premier League, Midwest Regional League, Region III Premier League and Far West Regional League). The National League provides an avenue for teams to play in meaningful matches against top competition from across the country for continued development. In addition to recruiting opportunities, National League teams compete for the league title and two slots to the annual US Youth Soccer National Championships for the U15 through U17 age groups.
Some highlights from Sunday's matches…U15 Girls
VSA Heat 96 Blue (VA) jumped Sunrise-Weston Sting (FL) into third place in the division with a 2-0 victory. Kristin Schnurr netted twice in the second half with 43rd minute and stoppage time goals to not only put VSA into the third spot, but place Schnurr into a tie for second among all scorers with four.
JB Marine Wipke (MO) was making a charge for the top spot in the Red division, but PWSI Courage 96 Red (VA) had something to say about that, coming out with a 2-0 win. Allison Turner scored the eventual winner nine minutes after the restart and Annie Boros clinched the game nine minutes from time to give PWSI their first victory of the season. U16 Girls
KCFC Futura Academy (MO) is putting the rest of the division under heat as they extended their lead atop the Red division after a 4-2 victory over AHFC 96 (S-TX), who was looking to make a run for the title as well. KCFC standout Savannah Trujillo
exploded for four goals in the game, giving her top spot among scorers with seven total. Trujillo netted twice in the first 10 minutes, and again in the 21st for a 3-0 KCFC lead, but AHFC showed their resolve with goals by Michaela Abam
and Shaylee Ward to get within one before Trujillo grabbed her fourth to seal the win for KCFC.
Grand Rapids Crew Juniors (MI) assumed the Blue division lead after a 1-0 win versus BRYC 95 Elite (VA), who sits at the bottom of the table despite just two losses in six games. Sydney Vinton
scored the winner in the 30th minute as Crew now hope to put as many points as possible between them and idle Legends 95 (CA-S) and Match Fit Chelsea Beat (NJ) to claim the ticket to the National Championships. U17 Girls
Only one team could make a realistic charge for the Blue championship, and VSA Heat Blue (VA) overcame JB Marine Wipke (MO) 3-2 to take first place in the division and stay in contention for a National Championships berth. The importance of the match was obvious as VSA twice came back from a goal down to eventually get the winner six minutes before time. Brianne Ebenroth scored first for JB Marine in the 15th and the lead lasted until the 50th when Vanessa Kovar
leveled for VSA. Jade Klump
put JBM back on top nine minutes later, but Ashley Herndon again equalized in the 69th before VSA completed the comeback when Christina Corbin
scored in the 79th.
Both Michigan FC 95 and Herndon Firecats (VA) were trying to stay in the hunt for the division, but a 1-1 tie mathematically eliminates Herndon. Cassandra Smith put Herndon in the lead two minutes after the restart, but Elizabeth Abro drew level for Michigan six minutes later as Michigan will face Eclipse Select 94/95 (IL) tomorrow for a possible spot in Nationals.