REDMOND, Washington - The PDA U18 and Michigan Hawks U14 sides rolled into their respective finals Saturday with complete 90-minute efforts. For the Real Colorado U14 and Michigan Hawks U18 teams, it took more time - and frayed more nerves - than that.
Both the Hawks U18 and Real Colorado U14 teams needed penalties to turn tight contests and set the finals fields for their ECNL championship games on Sunday. Both Hawks and Real Colorado keepers pounded out two saves t0 put their sides in the finals.
PDA and the Hawks’ U14 team were already waiting after wins just moments earlier. Notably, the Hawks have a chance at a title sweep when their U14 side faces Real Colorado and the U18 team squares off against vaunted PDA. The U14 team might be considered favorites, but the U18 will be dogs to the loaded array PDA brings into the match.
That Hawks U14 side did work in the morning’s opener, a 5-2 win over hometown Crossfire Premier guided by Alexa Spaanstra’s hat trick. The U15, U16 and U17 teams took Saturday off before the event comes to its grand conclusion Sunday, so the showcase fields were well-stocked with spectators. This one especially since Crossfire, which has its home in Redmond, was two wins from a championship.
The Hawks didn’t wait long to dash their hopes.
“We were expecting to just go out and play as a team, keep the ball and just make them chase,” Spaanstra said. “I think we did really good.”
About 10 minutes into the game, Spaanstra, the No. 2 player in the TopDrawerSoccer.com IMG Academy 150 rankings for 2018s, scored the first of her three goals by brushing a bouncing ball with the outside of her right foot 15 yards out to open the scoring. The Hawks scored a second before Spaanstra added another, cutting a tight angle for a 3-0 lead with about 10 minutes left in the half.
Crossfire pulled one back when Sophie Hirst drew a penalty and Kali Trevithick converted to make it 3-1. Any hopes of a comeback didn’t last long. The Hawks’ Jessica Giese scored on the last kick of the first half to take a 4-1 advantage into the break. Crossfire scored again 15 minutes into the second half on a tidy finish from Venicia Juarez, but again, the Hawks’ retaliation squashed any notion that this wasn’t their game to win. Spaanstra finished her hat trick with a lovely individual effort to set the final scoreline at 5-2 and put the Hawks into the finals for the second straight year.
Last year, the Hawks lost in the finals. This year, they’re hunting for the title alongside their U18 counterparts. To do it, they’ll have to get past a talented Real Colorado team that dispatched PDA in penalties just moments after the Hawks won their game.
“We’re definitely excited to be back,” Spaanstra said. “We’re just going to have to work hard again. We’re really excited.”
PDA U18 2-0 San Diego Surf U18
While the Hawks U18 team was locked in a tight battle with Real So Cal, PDA’s ballyhooed U18 side took the field for an anticipated meeting with the Surf. PDA was far and away the best U18 ECNL team in the nation this season, and the top overall seed brought all the momentum in the world into a Seattle tournament they were always heavily favored to win. Three wins in three group games did nothing to alter the script.
The Surf, though, enjoyed a formidable season as well, and they had to muscle past Lonestar SC on a tiebreaker to win Group D and move into the semifinals for a meeting with PDA. And early on in Saturday’s meeting, PDA got all it could handle. The Surf had the better of the chances in the opening 10 minutes, and when PDA inevitably began asserting control with its incomparably deep midfield, the Surf did well to turn away chance after chance.
But after a while the pressure became too much, and the Surf couldn’t make it to the half. PDA knocked in its first goal in a scrum on the goal line just moments before the halftime whistle blew, which allowed PDA to lean on its controlling central midfield for the rest of the game. The duo of Rachel Corboz and Jessica Vigna locked down the midfield, and Colby Ciarrocca, who was a terror up top, helped set up the final goal that gave PDA its spot in the finals.
Now, PDA faces the Michigan Hawks, who came through the semifinal phase thanks to a massive performance from keeper Heather Rolls. She saved two goals in the shootout portion, and the Hawks missed just one to pull through in the nerviest of circumstances. That sets up the U18 final with two perennial powers who should give each other everything they can handle.