2013-2014 US Youth Soccer National League Girls continue play in Orlando, Fla.
ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 1, 2014)
— The US Youth Soccer National League
Girls showcased their talents in front of hundreds of college coaches in meaningful and competitive matches Wednesday at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., alongside the Disney Soccer Showcase. The girls teams competing in Orlando will wrap up their 2013-2014 season on Thursday, while the rest of the league will compete in Las Vegas March 21-23 before standings are finalized.
The competition level continues to be high, with several National League Girls division races shaping up to only be determined on the final days of play in Las Vegas. Defending US Youth Soccer National Champion Eclipse Elite Black 97-98 (IL) became the first team to clinch a spot in the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships
thanks to a 3-1 comeback win on Wednesday against Tophat 16 Gold (GA). The victory gives Eclipse 18 points in the Under-16 Blue Division, enough to make them the first National League Girls squad to secure a group title. The second-place finisher in the division could be determined on Thursday when Tophat faces MRM Coyotes (MD). If either team comes away with a win, the victorious side would wrap up a second-place finish and earn its ticket to the National Championships.
Other teams that could secure at least a second place finish on Thursday are Under-18 BRYC 95 Elite (VA) and Under-15 Futura Academy Forte (MO). BRYC can advance with either a win or tie in its final game in Orlando. After playing to a 1-1 draw with Vestavia Attack 99 Black (AL) on Wednesday, Futura will need a win on Thursday to clinch a top-two finish. Futura coach Brad Childers believed his team controlled its game against Vestavia, but he said in the National League any team can take advantage of its chances — no matter how few — to come away with a positive result.
"It pushes these girls and makes them better. It holds them accountable," Childers said. "I think one of the things about getting into the National Championships is it creates motivation. That’s why I think it’s critical. I know we can play there. It’s just a matter of getting in there, and then doing well when we’re there. At this level, we could lose every game, but I think we also have a shot at winning any game."
Meanwhile, club mate Futura FC 96/97 Academy Premier (MO) entered play Wednesday looking to pull away from a pack of five teams tied atop the Under-17 Blue Division. Futura played VSA Heat 96 Blue (VA), one of the five Blue Division teams deadlocked with nine points, to a scoreless draw — meaning each side reluctantly settled for one point in the standings. The tie allowed NSA Jaguars (IL) to jump to the top of the group, as it hung on for a 3-2 win over 97 Norcross Fury Premier (GA) to move to 12 points in the standings.
A win in its final contest in Orlando would put the Under-17 NSA squad in a good position to earn one of the top two spots in the division when the standings are finalized following the games in March. NSA coach Bonnie Young said her team’s bracket is an example of why every National League game means something, and she knows the quality of teams in the league means you need to pick up every point possible.
"When you have Disney being your last event and have to wait to see what happens in March, you never have a feeling of comfort when you leave here," Young said. "The teams that play in March out in Las Vegas are all very strong teams. They’re all in the running for first or second, as well. We still have to take care of business tomorrow against a good Futura team. Hopefully, we can set ourselves up to be in the best position possible."
National League teams earn their place in the league based on a proven track record of success in US Youth Soccer regional and national competitions and are among the nation's best. Competing for a league title and a spot in the US Youth Soccer National Championships
, each and every game will play into who represents the National League this summer in Germantown, Md.
The National 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 and opportunities for exposure at the national team, collegiate and professional levels.
National League action continues Thursday, Jan. 2, at ESPN Wide World of Sports with games at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Complete standings, scores and schedules, including goal scorers and match information, can be found at the results page here
. Click on the score of each game for more information.
Some highlights from Wednesday’s matches…
Libertyville FC 1974 (IL) entered its Under-15 Red Division matchup with PWSI Courage 98 RED (VA) near the top of the group standings — likely needing wins in its last two games to have a chance at finishing among the top two teams in the division. The Illinois side got off to a good start when Alliyah Parker scored in the 33rd minute to put Libertyville up, 1-0. That lead stood until Emily Keast scored an equalizer for PWSI in the 75th minute. Neither side managed to find a game-winner in the final minutes, as the teams finished in a 1-1 tie.
In the Under-15 Blue Division, Futura Academy Forte (MO) used a late goal by Marissa Moore to earn a 1-1 tie with Vestavia Attack 99 Black (AL). The Missouri side controlled much of the game, but it was Vestavia that grabbed the advantage when Julia Freeman scored in the 65th minute. Futura pushed for an equalizer and was rewarded when Moore found the back of the net in the 75th minute, leading to a 1-1 draw. The tie puts Futura in position to clinch at least a second-place finish with a win on Thursday.
Tampa Bay United 97 Premier (FL) is in good position in the Under-16 Red Division after it came back from a goal down to defeat Michigan Jaguars 98 Green (MI), 2-1. After a scoreless first half, Devyn Brough put the Jaguars up with a 42nd-minute strike. Tampa Bay equalized midway through the half when Jacqueline Thompson found the back of the net in the 64th minute. With the end of regulation approaching, Julia Lester scored to give Tampa Bay an important win that helps create some separation from the teams that will play their final games in Las Vegas.
Eclipse Elite Black 97-98 (IL) needed a late rally to pick up a 3-1 win against Tophat 16 Gold (GA) and clinch the Under-16 Blue Division title. Grace Jackson put Tophat in front in the 36th minute when she headed a well-placed corner kick into the back of the net. The Georgia side nearly doubled its lead in the 50th minute when a free kick from 35 yards out hit the left post. Eclipse managed to tie the game in the 65th minute, as Tatumn Milazzo hit a shot into the left corner of the net. With just a few minutes left in the game, Foster Ignoffo entered a crowded six-yard box and tapped a loose ball into the net for the go-ahead goal. Alissa Gorzak added a tally in stoppage time to complete the 3-1 win.
In a tight Under-17 Blue Division title race, NSA Jaguars (IL) picked up a key 3-2 win Wednesday against a determined 97 Norcross Fury Premier (GA) squad. Alyssa Kovatchis scored to give NSA the lead in the 20th minute, but Tiffany Raygor responded for Norcross just three minutes later to tie the game. Seconds before halftime, Erin Fitzgerald slipped behind the Norcross defense and struck a shot into the left corner to help NSA regain the lead. Jamie Kovatchis pushed the NSA advantage to 3-1 in the 56th minute before the Fury’s Landen Bowman converted a penalty kick in the 68th minute to pull her side within a goal. The NSA defense managed to fend off numerous attacks by Norcross in the final 20 minutes, as the Jaguars held on for the tight victory.
BRYC 95 Elite (VA) is in good position to earn a berth to the National Championships after it defeated Tophat 14 Gold (GA), 3-0. After an early goal was called back for an offside call, BRYC finally broke through in the 37th minute when Rachel Moore hit a right-footed shot past the diving Tophat keeper. Rachel McEntire doubled the lead after halftime when she tapped in an open look seconds after Tophat saved a dangerous free kick from just outside its box. Kahla Seymour added a third goal in the 78th minute to cap the 3-0 BRYC victory and put the former National Champions in position to punch their ticket to Germantown, Md.