PHOENIX, ARIZONA – Under blazing desert skies, eight more national champions were crowned here Sunday as the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships drew to a close. Following are some feature match details and if you scroll down you can get full results and individual awards courtesy U.S. Youth Soccer.
Day 5 Results | Day 4 Results | Day 3 Results | Day 2 Results | Day 1 Results
U16 GIRLS: STING 95 (TX-N) 4, HURRICANE FC (OK) 3
A game is always best when teams have something to prove; Sunday in the U16 title bout, that was not the least bit of a problem. Not only were the teams competing in the national championship match, but they each had a story behind their path to victory and expectations to live up to.
For Hurricane FC, expectations were not only present from their families, friends, and soccer club, but their entire state, as well. If victorious, they would be the first team ever to win a U.S. Youth Soccer national championship for the state of Oklahoma.
Sting Dallas players were no newbies to the pressure of a championship match. but they were attempting to accomplish something even bigger than just a single title; back-to-back national championships. In the end the powerhouse team from Texas accomplished the feat of back-to-back titles, but this game proved to be a colossal test of will and soccer skill.
U16 Dallas Sting v Hurricane FC
At the conclusion of the game, exhausted Sting captains attempted to put words on what they were feeling. Caity Heap said, “I have goose bumps in 120-degree weather.” Her teammate and fellow captain, Glory Williams said, “As soon as he blew the whistle I just shivered. I thought, ‘OMG we did it again.’”
Hurricane FC seemed to have the upper hand in the early minutes of the game, although the first attempt at goal came from Sting forward Katie Martin’s cross to teammate, Maddy Crabtree who released a shot that touched the top of the cross bar. Then the Hurricane counterattack brought trouble for the Sting defense.
In the seventh minute of play, Hurricane midfielder Claire Kelley delivered a cross from the left flank that the Sting defenders could not clear. Hurricane’s Kristen Killion finished the ball with a clean header into the back of the net.
But the scoring frenzy had just begun. Less than a minute later, Sting took their chance to tie it up when midfielder Meagan McCullough found teammate Crabtree who redeemed her first missed shot with a shot past the reach of Hurricane keeper. The score now stood 1-1 less than 10 minutes into the game.
Sting’s chances did not stop there, and neither did their affinity for the crossbar. In the 17th minute, Britt Blackwell took a hard shot on goal that just missed over the top. In the 24th minute, Heap’s shot from a free kick about 30 yards out hit the top of the crossbar.
But by no means did Sting keep Hurricane out of the game. With five minutes remaining in the half, Jasmine Pascoe displayed determination when she, even off-balance from successive hard tackles, released a shot on-target to the far post that hit inside side netting and put Hurricane up 2-1.
In the second half, Sting came to play with no regrets. It took a couple attempts and several saves by Hurricane keeper Kaela Little, for Sting to finally tie it up. But 15 minutes into the second half, they finally capitalized. It started with the persistent and relentless attacking mentality of Madeleine Lundberg, who crossed the ball to teammate Heap waiting in scoring position. Heap took the ball down with remarkable composure directly in front of goal, took a touch, and made an unstoppable strike on goal. The score was tied up at 2.
It took a few more missed chances for each side for another goal to show up on the scoreboard. But with 10 minutes remaining in the 2nd half, Hurricane midfielder Madison Saliba beat a defender with an explosive change of pace and crossed the ball to the far post.
The ball appeared to be floating out of bounds, but Hurricane forward Anna Beffer got down and dirty in the Arizona soil, sliding to keep the ball in bounds and knock it back into play. The ball popped up to Claire Kelley, also standing at the back post. Kelley, positioned on the goal line and in between the ball and the Sting keeper, headed the ball in and made it 3-2 for the Oklahomans.
That looked like it could be a final result as the Hurricane defense stayed compact and Sting were getting few opportunities at goal. Hurricane central midfielder Claire Kelley not only delivered a goal and an assist for her team, but displayed a profound work rate and vision for the game, always aware of her surroundings, which enabled her to play very dangerous balls into the feet of ongoing attackers. Fellow central midfielder Shiloh Price was very comfortable on the ball as well, especially in playing textured balls with all surfaces of her foot.
Other game-changers for Hurricane were found across the entire field. Forward Elizabeth Keester, the leading goal-scorer in her age group with four goals in three games, played dynamically and showed great speed. She separated herself with her ability to evaluate game situations and chose to play the best tactical ball based on what she saw around her. She was often able to find teammate Madison Saliba making wide runs and ready to attack Sting defenders at speed. From the back, Claire Maris played the outside of the back-three well, covering ground and making great tackles when stepping onto Sting attackers dribbling out of midfield.
Then the match turned on a pair of events. First, with three minutes remaining in the game, the Hurricane team was reduced to 10 young women due to a red card. Less than a minute later, Sting forward Katie Martin scored to tie the game up 3-3.
So the match headed straight into overtime, with an ominous 30 minutes lurking before the players, especially the now-shorthanded Oklahomans.
The numbers-up situation for Sting gave them momentum directly into the first overtime period. With two missed attempts in the first two minutes, it seemed only a matter of time until one hit the net. Sure enough, three minutes into overtime, Heap found Sting defender Mykel Ward in the box and Sting, capping a dramatic comeback, was now ahead 4-3. The Sting sideline went wild.
Things went from bad to worse for Hurricane as another player was sent off for a second bookable offense, and the team was reduced to nine players.
Sting held on until the end, possessing with ease with an extra two bodies on the field. Midfielders Glory Williams, Lauren Selaiden, Kayla Peterson, Caity Heap, and Meagan McCullough were key to Sting’s possession of the ball until the final whistle blew. The score ended 4-3, Sting the victors, and now the winners of back-to-back national championships.
“Chemistry is not only [on this team], it’s with the whole club,” Sting Head Coach Kenny Medina said. “We had everybody out yesterday wanting it all. We had all three teams here and we had parents not only from this team, but other teams as well, coming to watch us. It’s not only the sense of community with this team, but the sense of community throughout the club.”
“We have always had a lot of support from our parents and each other,” Caity Heap said. “We support each other and that’s what makes us who we are. If you go down your teammates pick you back up.”
Sting’s Mykel Ward, along with scoring the winning goal was part of an aggressive back four that included Natalie Calhoun, Britt Blackwell, and Morgan Williams. The quartet was wise to press very tight to Hurricane forwards, keeping their backs to goal.
Up top, Sting rotated attacking pairs. The first, Maddy Crabtree and Katie Martin, worked very well off each other and exploited the space on the flanks of the Hurricane’s three-back defensive system. The other, Katelyn Mountjoy and Madeleine Lundberg, created chaos with blindside runs in between the seams of defenders.
“I’m overwhelmed, for that matter,” said Coach Medina. “My coaching staff was wonderful, I can’t say enough about our staff that was here and helped me get through these games. Not only being down in a game, but coming back against what a high-caliber team Hurricane is, because it is such a great team. To do it against those odds was very tough, and then to repeat in this tournament is just remarkable.”
When asked what makes the team so special and separate from the others, Coach Medina said, “It is what they were built on, their foundation... As a coach, what you admire about it the most is that we have gone through some bumps, but they all came together for the cause and they executed. It’s great.”
Medina concluded proudly, “This is going to be a history team for our club for a very long time.”U18 GIRLS: FC MILWAUKEE (WI) 4, COLORADO RUSH 2 (OT)
When the U16 Girls game ended, the U18 Girls game one field over, had also just concluded. After I got a chance to talk with members of the victorious Sting coach and players, I walked over and spoke with a member of the FC Milwaukee team, Nikki Condit, now also a National Champion.
“It took a while for us to find our stride and play our game,” Condit said. “But once we found that, we put our goal away.” At the end of regulation, the two teams were tied 1-1.
Overtime was a goal frenzy, as Condit said, “Later in overtime, we scored three goals in the first 15 minutes.”
Condit explained that the team is not built up of good individual players, but instead the team works together and uses each other to find success.
“It feels amazing,” Condit said. “We have worked so hard the past two years and it has been a journey. We didn’t start training for Nationals a month ago, we started training 12 months ago.”
An incredible amount of hard work and sweat lies behind the smiles and cheers, but also behind the disappointment and tears, on the podium.U17 GIRLS: NSA PREMIER FURY (IL) 2, ST. LOUIS SCOTT GALLAGHER 0
Bracket play had a lot to say about how the match would turn out. In the first game of the week, Chicago-area team NSA defeated St. Louis 6-0, a whopping victory. So St. Louis went into the game with something to prove.
Last year in the USYS National Championships for this age group, NSA came up only one bracket point short of qualification for the National Championship match. So they too had something to prove.
But in talking with NSA Head Coach Rade Martinovic after his game against NASA on Thursday, he mentioned that his team had suffered several injuries, with five starters out due to injury. The game’s result therefore could not easily be predicted; anything could happen.
Though I did not get to spend much time at this National Championship match, my mom and dad, the lovely Lyric and Gary Naquin, helped me out by attending the game and jotting down some of the main events of the game (I figured it was a safe bet; they’ve only watched 45,000 soccer games between my younger brother and I since our immersion into youth soccer).
From the beginning, NSA had the majority of possession and several attempts on goal, but none got past St. Louis goalkeeper Jessica Perry. Between free kicks, corner kicks, and shots on goal, NSA had plenty of chances. St. Louis forward Nicole Breece and midfielder Jennifer Miller
hustled and tried to pick up the momentum of their team’s possession game.
Sunday championship action in Phoenix
NSA Coach Martinovic explained that it was the team’s goal to get a point on the board early in the game while the girls still had fresh legs. Also, it was important to not let any goals in defensively to allow the other team back into the game.
Sure enough before halftime, in the 37th minute, NSA forward Zoe Swift ripped a shot from midfield, which pulled her team ahead 1-0. This was her third goal of the tournament, placing her as the highest scorer in the U17 Girls age group. But she would not be alone for long.
After this, NSA continued dominating and getting shots on goal. But the St. Louis back line maintained high pressure and worked hard to keep NSA from challenging their keeper.
Later, in the second half, St. Louis lost possession and the ball was picked up by Corinne Harris, who found her way through St. Louis defenders and floated a shot into the far post. It was Harris’ third goal of the tournament, as well, tying her with teammate Zoe Swift as the two highest scorers in the U17 Girls age bracket.
Despite numerous other chances for both sides, the score remained 2-0 NSA, and they were crowned the best of the nation for the second time this year, the first being their qualification for U.S. Youth Soccer Nationals by winning the National League.
NSA Coach Martinovic said that the hot weather posed a significant challenge to the girls today, but that they did what they needed to do to win the game. But he also said, “My team is the most disciplined on the field... In our most important games, we do best.” This discipline enabled the girls to push past the conditions and deliver offensively and defensively.
Martinovic said that keeping the speed of the game, timing, and skill are equally important to the team’s victory.
Martinovic also credited his victory to his wife, standing nearby, who “has helped a lot” throughout the entire process (half serious, half joking… maybe 60-40).
“This is the best chemistry that you can imagine,” Martinovic said. “They have fun all over, and I do my best to put the fun on the field. If I put fun on the field, they laugh and do this and that, but then they say, ‘Ok, we’ll work now!’ They do a really great job.”
The chemistry is so great, in fact, that when I asked him to pick a player to represent the team in an interview with me, he sent the whole team. We completed the interview with surprising organization, classroom style, with raised hands and all! I don’t feel the need to add much commentary to their words; it speaks for itself. The team interview was as follows:
Question: How are you guys feeling right now to be National Champions?
Anna Agboola: We’re ecstatic; speechless. The feeling inside is jitters and shaking…
Amy Tadla: It’s an amazing feeling. We’ve worked so hard for this our entire lives. We gave up everything.
Zoe Swift: We’re tired as ever, everybody is. But we’re happy we got to win.
Question: What makes this team unique? What is special to this team that makes you the best of the best?
Jordan Ginther: Each of us have our own skill; something to bring to the team. And our dedication is incredible.
Jennifer Korn: A lot of teams rely on just a few players to win the game, but we really play as a full team and support each other and help each other out. WOO! (the team said I couldn’t forget the “woo”)
Question: What is going to be the moment you will remember from your experience at this tournament?
Jessica Bronke: The three weeks of preparation we had every day for three straight weeks in the middle of the day to prepare for the heat.
Rade stuck his head in to note the one problem he encounters with the team: when they text their boyfriends on the bench. Some of the girls, he said, had more than one, even two or three.
The girls all laughed and agree what they would remember most was just this man standing in front of them, their beloved coach, Rade, especially the moment when they got to dunk him with water. I have to admit, it was the best dunk I have seen yet.
Corinne Harris: Rade, our coach, was just fantastic throughout this whole process. He always believed in us and he always pushed us harder, and that was really how we got here and were able to win all these games and play so well together.
Christina Ordonez: We’re going to remember how close we are as a team, how close we’ve grown, and every quote that Jess Bronke said to us before every game.
Alexandra Peterson ended the interview with one last quote, which in conclusion describes the NSA team as a whole, now crowned National Champions. She said, “We’re too positive to be doubtful, we’re too optimistic to be fearful, and we’re too determined to be defeated.”
Sitting here listening to my voice recording of the NSA team interview, I count 23 we’s, our’s, and us’s, and not even one I or me. So what is the secret to a National Championship team? I’ll let you answer that for yourself.
Day 5 Results | Day 4 Results | Day 3 Results | Day 2 Results | Day 1 Results
Full Saturday & Sunday Results (courtesy U.S. Youth Soccer):
Eclipse Select (IL) 0, Sting 97 (TX-N) 2
Sting: Chelsea Surpris (31:00), Catherine Gasper (57:00)
SAC United Premier (MD) 1, PDA Slammers (NJ) 2
PDA: Lauren Jankowski (35:00), Lauren Dimes (47:00)
SAC: Margaret Purce (73:00)
Hurricane FC 95 Shubert (OK) 3, Sting 95 (TX-N) 4 OT
Sting: Madelyn Crabtree (8:00)(104:00) Caitlyn Heap (53:00), Katie Martin (81:00)
Hurricane: Elizabeth Keester (7:00), Jasmine Pascoe (35:00), Anna Beffer (73:00)
St. Louis Scott Gallagher (MO) 0, NSA Premier Fury (IL) 2
NSA: Zoe Swift (34:00), Corinne Harris (56:00)
FC Milwaukee (WI) 4, Colorado Rush Nike (CO) 2 OT
FC: Mary Luba (54:00), Cara Walls (5:00) (6:00), Mady Vicker (14:00)
Rush: Annie Kunz (75:00), Kaitlyn Bassett (17:00)
Real Colorado National 91/92 (CO) 1, Dallas Texans 92 Red (TX-N) 2 OT
Real: Laura Feehs (75:00)
Texans: Courtney Smith (13:00), Shelby Redman (21:00)
Chicago Magic (IL) 0, Fullerton Rangers 96 White (CA-S) 1
Rangers: Dylan Smith (11:00)
Michigan Jaguars (MI) 1, Chicago Fire (IL) 3
Fire: Michael Catalano (59:00), Christian Hanock-Berhanu (77:00), Brian Werchek (82:00)
Jaguars: Griffin Parks (5:00)
Albion White (CA-S) 1, Concorde Fire Elite (GA) 2
Albion: Dontae Walker (70:00)
Concorde: Cameron Moseley (7:00), Shaban Abousaud (73:00)
Penn Fusion Celtic (PA-E) 1, Grand Rapids Crew Juniors (MI) 2 OT (PK 4-5)
Fusion: Melvin Snoh (89:00)
Crew: Sean Conerty (71:00)
YMS Thunder (PA-E) 1, Alpharetta Ambush 93 Red (GA) 0
Thunder: Kyle MacDonald (89:00)
Baltimore Bays Chelsea (MD) 2, Chicago Fire Juniors (IL) 0
Bays: Marquez Fernandez (5:00), Jeremy Kirkwood (49:00)
Champions & Individual Awards
Under-14 Boys William J. "Billy" Goaziou Cup
Champion: Fullerton Rangers (CA-S)
Golden Ball: Richardo Ruiz, Fullerton Rangers (CA-S)
Golden Glove: Keith Murphy, Fullerton Rangers (CA-S)
Fair Play: Dallas Texans 97 Red (N-TX)
Under-14 Girls Elmer Ehlers Cup
Champion: Sting 97 (N-TX)
Golden Ball: Mimi Asom, Sting 97 (N-TX)
Golden Glove: Alyssa Palacios, Sting 97 (N-TX)
Fair Play: Eclipse Select (IL)
Under-15 Boys US Youth Soccer Cup
Champion: Chicago Fire (IL)
Golden Ball: Christian Hancock-Barhenu, Chicago Fire (IL)
Golden Glove: James Barkei, Chicago Fire (IL)
Fair Play: Michigan Jaguars (MI)
Under-15 Girls Kristine Lilly Cup
Champion: PDA Slammers (NJ)
Golden Ball: Caroline Chagares, PDA Slammers (NJ)
Golden Glove: Courtney Brosnan, PDA Slammers (NJ)
Fair Play: SAC United Premier (MD)
Under-16 Girls Mavis Derflinger Cup
Champion: Sting 95 (N-TX)
Golden Ball: Elizabeth Keester, Hurricane FC 95 Shubert (OK)
Golden Glove: Kayla Little, Hurricane FC 95 Shubert (OK)
Fair Play: Sting 95 (N-TX)
Under-16 Boys Larry Harmon Cup
Champion: Concorde Fire United (GA)
Golden Ball: Ariel Lassiter, Albion White (CA-S)
Golden Glove: Kyler Kelsey, Concorde Fire United (GA)
Fair Play: Beadling SC (PA-W)
Under-17 Girls US Youth Soccer Cup
Champion: NSA Premier Fury (IL)
Golden Ball: Zoe Swift, NSA Premier Fury (IL)
Golden Glove: Jordan Ginther, NSA Premier Fury (IL)
Fair Play: NSA Premier Fury (IL)
Under-17 Boys Don Greer Cup
Champion: Grand Rapids Crew Jrs (MI)
Golden Ball: Sean Connerty, Grand Rapids Crew Jrs. (MI)
Golden Glove: Chase Rau, Grand Rapids Crew Jrs. (MI)
Fair Play: Penn Fusion (E-PA)
Under-18 Girls Francis J. "Frank" Kelly Cup
Champion: FC Milwaukee (WI)
Golden Ball: Cara Walls, FC Milwaukee (WI)
Golden Glove: Monica Gonyo, FC Milwaukee (WI)
Fair Play: Colorado Rush Nike (CO)
Under-18 Boys Andy Stone Cup
Champion: YMS Thunder (E-PA)
Golden Ball: Kyle MacDonald, YMS Thunder (E-PA)
Golden Glove: Colin Sulpizio, YMS Thunder (E-PA)
Fair Play: KCFC Rangers (KS)
Under-19 Girls Ross Stuart Cup
Champion: Dallas Texans 92 Red (N-TX)
Golden Ball: Alyssa Diggs, Dallas Texans 92 Red (N-TX)
Golden Glove: Meghan Thomas, Real Colorado National 91/92 (CO)
Fair Play: Real Colorado National 91/92 (CO)
Under-19 Boys James P. McGuire Cup
Champion: Baltimore Bays Chelsea (MD)
Golden Ball: Jessie Ortiz, Chicago Fire Jrs (IL)
Golden Glove: Phil Saunders, Baltimore Bays Chelsea (MD)
Fair Play: Baltimore Bays Chelsea (MD)