Published: January 10, 2012
College coaches, national team scouts, and numerous spectators descended on Sanford, Florida last month as the Sunshine State played host to some of the top youth programs in the country for the Elite Clubs National League Showcase.
The three-game Showcase, played Dec. 27-30, was the second of five showcases on the ECNL calendar this season, allowing the teams to mix some inter-conference play with their normal divisional schedule played during the year.
Headlining the show for the U15 age group was the second place team in the ECNL national standings, Gwinnett Soccer Association. On top of the high national ranking, GSA leads the Southeast Conference with a perfect 16-0-0 record in conference play.
GSA is on a roll this season.
It was the first showcase for the Atlanta-area team this season, and they came away thoroughly impressed with the event.
“It was a really good experience for my girls,” GSA U15 head coach Campbell Chapman told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “Like everything with the ECNL, the event was very well run with a lot of college coaches attending.”
GSA’s first game in Florida pitted them against nemesis Dallas Sting, which defeated Chapman’s team 2-1 in the semifinal round of the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Championships last summer. Dallas Sting went on to capture the national title and left GSA licking its wounds.
“For us, we were looking at how far we’ve come (since that defeat) and maybe put one on them,” said Chapman about the mentality of his team heading into the rematch on the opening day, which ended in a scoreless draw.
“It was a good game and very competitive from the first to the last minute,” he said. “My girls played very well and were unfortunate not to get the win, but no complaints when you play an ECNL showcase and don’t get beat.”
The coach went on to highlight the play of his star forward Jennifer Westendorf
who has 26 goals and five helpers on the season thus far, including a goal and an assist at the Showcase.
“She has developed into a fantastic natural goal scorer,” said Chapman. “She likes to score goals and that’s what we like her to do.”
He added that Ella Stevens
and Dena Cisic also had impressive showings in Florida as well as a stout team defensive performance that shutout all three opponents on the way to securing seven points from the Showcase.
GSA was not the only one enjoying the late December trip, the Eclipse Select team also seemed comfortable in the Sunshine State’s heat.
Led by U15 national team pool members Caroline Brockmeier
, Hannah Davison, and Genevieve McGowan, Eclipse was the only Flight A team with a perfect 3-0-0 record at the event. The Illinois club leads the Midwest Conference and sits third in the national standings.
From the U15 Flight B, Michigan club Vardar pushed toward the top of the table with two wins and a draw. Todd Heugh’s team is third in the Midwest Conference and seventh in the national rankings with a very impressive 39 goals for and one conceded in 13 games against teams from other regions.
Leading the way for Vardar is the imposing forward duo of Hannah Cady
and Kelly Sweeney who have combined for 15 goals in 16 games this season.
Perennial Atlanta powerhouse Concorde Fire also were undefeated at the event with a pair of wins and a draw, but St. Louis Scott Gallagher was the belle of the ball with the only perfect 3-0-0 record among Flight B teams. Midfielders Lauryn Gamache and Natalie Breeden were the main contributors to their team’s success with four goals and nine assists between the two of them at the event.
The next Showcase will be held in San Antonio in February, as teams push to finish in the top 16 to be eligible for the ECNL National Championships in June.