Day 3 of 3 complete
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ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 2, 2012) – The US Youth Soccer National League Under-15, Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 Girls competing this weekend solidified their season standings today at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Soccer Complex in Orlando, Fla. Four of the league's eight teams per division age group competed this weekend, with the exception of all 12 U-18 teams who finished their season in Orlando. The remaining four teams per division age group will compete in Las Vegas, Nev., alongside the Player's College Showcase March 23-25 where league standings will be finalized.
"Playing in the National League has been great," said Michigan FC Head Coach Kevin Garner. "Everything is very professionally run and the facilities and the set up are excellent. Very competitive games, and on any given day anybody can beat anybody. Every game is different and like I said, it's a challenge. Every team plays with a different system and a different style of play, and you have to adjust to it and figure it out. So, it's a great challenge and the players have enjoyed it, I've enjoyed it, and everybody that's part of the club has really enjoyed the experience."
"To me, National League is second to none and it's a great environment to expose your players to, especially if they're looking to play at the next level. Not only can playing in National League help players get to the next level with all these college coaches out here scouting, but I think playing in the National League can prepare them better for the next level than any of the other competitions out there."
"Every single one of these players wants to play in college and we're doing our best to help them out with that. They're all very dedicated players and they do above and beyond just our training sessions. They go out and do their own training, they do speed, agility and quickness training and they're constantly working. They're serious athletes."
"We've got seven or eight committed to college programs and those are players who committed early and had a real idea of where they wanted to play at. The ones who haven't committed are weighing their options at this point. They've got quite a lot of interest from schools, it's a tough decision for them and they want to make sure they make the right decision. Some of them were quick to make a decision and others are waiting a bit to see what the right move is for them."
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. In addition to recruiting opportunities, National League teams compete for the league title and one slot per division to the annual US Youth Soccer National Championships
for the U-15 through U-17 age groups.
Garner emphasized what it would mean to earn a chance to play in the National Championships, and how playing for that spot raises the level of play in the National League as each game is meaningful and could make or break the opportunity to advance.
"Getting to play in the National Championships would mean everything to these girls. They work so hard, and I know that's the same for every team here, but they really do work very, very hard as a team and they're very unified. I think to have an experience to play in the National Championships would be unbelievable. That's what every team here wants."
Some highlights from today's matches…
Eclipse Select 96/97 (IL)
and JB Marine Wipke (MO)
faced off on their final day of play tied for second, with the winner taking a two point lead atop the standings over idle Legends FC (CA-S)
. The game was a defensive struggle as neither team wanted to relinquish their chance for the Red division title, but Eclipse finally broke through with six minutes left to play on a goal by McKenzie Runyan for the 1-0 victory.
AHFC 97 (S-TX)
finished strong with 2-0 win versus Sunrise-Weston Sting (FL)
. Mary Heiberger scored the eventual winner for AHFC in the 56th
minute and Junique Rodriguez added an insurance goal in the 77th
to jump Sting in the standings.
"It's been great to be here," said AHFC coach Russell Gee. "Obviously the competition level is extremely difficult in the National League, but everything from the environment, the competitiveness, the facilities, it's all first class."
"The games have got to be competitive. If the games are competitive, the players will get better. It challenges the coaches in their training methods to prepare the teams and players for when they get here and the challenges ahead of them in this league."
With a two point lead in first place, Grand Rapids Crew Juniors Gold (MI)
hoped to add to the lead against St. Louis Scott Gallagher Premier Navy (MO)
before leaving their fate to the teams competing in Las Vegas. After falling behind 0-2 to SLSG on goals by Alexandra Magaletta in the 18th
and Kaley Nieters in the 50th
, Grand Rapids managed to add a point to their total with two goals in the final 25 minutes from Mariah Otolski and Clare Carlson to salvage a 2-2 draw.
VSA Heat Blue (VA)
capped an undefeated season, going 4-0-3, to lead the Blue division after defeating NASA 13 Elite II (GA)
3-1. VSA now plays the waiting game as they hold a five point lead on Blast FC (OH-S)
and seven points over Legends FC (CA-S)
with both teams having three games in hand. NASA tested the unbeaten streak with a 1-0 halftime lead on Julia Bird's 14th
minute goal. But Alexa Wagoner leveled in the 51st
and Meghan Cox grabbed the winner before Vanessa Kovar added an insurance goal to deliver the win.
Herndon Firecats (VA)
were in the hunt for the division title coming into the weekend, but they settled for third place, just outside of an automatic invitation back into the league, even with a 1-0 victory over Brandon FC Flames Blue (FL)
. Cassandra Smith scored the winner in the 23rd
for Herndon and Brandon finishes with five losses on the season, four of them coming by one goal.
FC Pennsylvania Strikers (E-PA)
and Toro Bravo (NE)
played for the outright league title with both teams coming into the game with 4-0-1 records. The teams could not be separated during a 0-0 draw in regulation, and FC Penn keeper Emily Armstrong (Boston College) made two saves in the shootout as Strikers won 4-3 in penalty kicks. Stevi Parker (South Carolina), Kelly Kerrigan (James Madison), Madeline Parker (Delaware) and Gina DiTaranto (Delaware) all scored their spot kicks for FC Penn. Paige Nielsen (North Carolina), Jaylyn Odermann and Hannah Wampler (Nebraska) scored their penalties for Toro.
Keep up with the National League all season:
National League Home: USYouthSoccer.org/National_League
Schedule and results: Tournaments.usyouthsoccer.org/events/2011-2012-National-League/
You Tube: YouTube.com/usyouth