ECNL Playoffs: PK thriller tops opening day

ECNL Playoffs: PK thriller tops opening day
by J.R. Eskilson
June 22, 2013

AURORA, Colorado – The bright skies of the Mile High City paved the way for a stellar opening day at the 2012-13 ECNL playoffs. There were late goals, thrilling comebacks, clutch saves, and two penalty kick shootouts.

Hannah Alspach and Hanna Barker, girls club soccer, ecnl playoffsHannah Alspach and Hanna Barker (23)


Rush Soccer, the fourth overall seed and one of the favorites to win it all on Monday, survived a scare from a gritty, talented PDA squad and advanced to the quarterfinals in the U18 National Championship series on Friday with a 6-5 penalty kick victory after a 1-1 draw in regulation and overtime.

Gabrielle Miranda scored the game-tying goal early in the second half on a free kick from 25 yards out that swerved around the wall and snuck inside the post. Salina Williford netted the opening tally for PDA in the first half on a long distance shot that found the upper corner of the net.

Rush goalkeeper Kaeli Schmidt was the hero of the game though, as she came up with the clutch save in the shutout to ensure the win. Rush face Mustang SC (Danville, California) in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The Northern California squad used three goals in overtime to defeat Carolina Elite Soccer Academy.

FC Stars of Massachusetts showed its quality at the Aurora Sports Park on Friday in a convincing victory. Forward Hayley Dowd found the back of the net five times for Stars, which raced to a 6-2 win and a spot in the quarterfinals. FC Stars meets CASL Chelsea Ladies in the next round. CASL defeated Michigan Hawks 2-1 in the Round of 16.

In the other two quarterfinal fixtures set for Saturday, TSC Hurricane will face Dallas Texans, which won on Friday in a penalty kick shootout, and Real So Cal takes on Ohio Premier Eagles.


D’Feeters SC’s intense fitness training over the last few weeks paid dividends in their opening game at the playoffs, as the Texas club outlasted FC Delco in a 2-1 victory behind goals from Hannah Alspach and Madeline Brem.

“They were sucking some air after a few minutes, but they fought through it,” D’Feeters coach Meagan Wilson told about her group adjusting to the altitude. “Hopefully, next game their lungs will get a little more acclimated to it.”

D’Feeters had to hold on late though, as Tayler Jamison cut the lead in half with 17 minutes left in the game on a diving header off a cross from Mikayla Smith. FC Delco nearly found the equalizer with seven minutes left when Riley Yankowich dribbled through the defense and hit a clear shot from 12 yards out at goal, but D’Feeters goalkeeper Hanna Johnson made a brilliant diving save.

Johnson split the win with starting goalkeeper Morgan Rushing who also had a few good saves during her half in net. Wilson said that they are confident in both keepers, which worked out well on Friday.

In other U17 action, Dallas Texans squeaked by Internationals SC (Cleveland, Ohio) 1-0 in a battle between two evenly matched teams. Texans grabbed the full points though thanks to center back Riann Winget who finished a corner kick with 10 minutes left for the game-winning goal. Taylor Braun recorded the shutout in goal for the Texans.


Lonestar SC battled back from an 0-2 hole against Minnesota Thunder Academy to snatch a 2-2 draw in the opening playoff game for both teams. Thunder got on the board in the 18th minute when Chelsey Henry hit a screamer from the top corner of the 18-yard box that nestled into the net.

Thunder doubled the lead after half with a long distance tally from Bridget Schoffman.

Lonestar went storming back after the second goal and benefitted from a cross-turned-shot from Claudette Lassandro that went into the upper corner of the net, which cut the lead in half.

Four minutes later, Katie Glenn tried her luck from distance, but her shot was knocked down by a defender’s hand. Marissa McMahand converted the kick from the spot for the game-tying goal.


Frankie Tagliaferri finished her playoff debut with a goal and two assists in PDA’s 4-2 win over Real So Cal. Tagliaferri’s stat line is impressive, but it is even more mesmerizing when considering the forward is playing two age groups up.

The U14 Girls National Team member was a terror for the Real So Cal defense all day and helped spur the comeback for the New Jersey club, which trailed after only eight minutes after an Emily Koe goal.

“The first goal was a combination of being nervous and getting adjusted to the speed of play,” PDA coach Meghan Ryan told “We are in the middle of exams right now . . . but after the first goal, the girls kind of realized they had to get going.”

Tagliaferri broke down the right side and hit a shot at net that the goalkeeper put her fingertips on, but did not look like she did enough to keep it out of the net. PDA forward Seneca Kinn-Gurzo made no mistake about it and punched it home.

Bailey Hurst gave PDA the lead shortly into the second half with a quality finish. Minutes later, Tagliaferri grabbed her lone goal of the game when she chipped the keeper from 25 yards out.

Hurst capped the scoring for PDA when she rounded the keeper on a breakaway and slotted the ball into the open net.

Bailey Hobson notched the last goal of the game with only three minutes left, which was her first goal of the season but purely academic for the result of the fixture on Friday.  

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