ECNL GIRLS NATIONAL FINALS DAY 2: CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY
This was it.
It was the day teams had been dreaming of since the beginning of August. It was what got them through tougher training sessions and even tougher games. It’s what made the early mornings, long nights, travel days and everything else worth it.
It was Championship Sunday.
Four age groups (U17, U16, U14, U13) saw a champion crowned Sunday, as well as the ECNL Girl’s overall Club Champion. Meanwhile, the U15s had two teams punch their tickets to the National Championship match Monday morning.
Below is a rundown of all the National Champions, the overall club champion and who will be competing for the ultimate prize Monday.
National Champion: MVLA
Runner-up: LAFC Slammers
The U17s featured two California clubs competing for the National Championship, and what resulted was a game that required both teams to grind, fight, and claw for every inch.
LAFC Slammers started the game with their foot on the gas, generating scoring chance after scoring chance, racking up three corners and multiple one-on-one battles before the first 10 minutes were up. However, MVLA weathered the storm and as they settled into the game, started to flip the game into their favor.
Both sides traded chances throughout the first half, attacking and counterattacking, but neither side could gain an upper hand. That continued into the second half, until finally, MVLA broke through. MVLA’s Jasmine Aikey received the ball inside the box and slipped a shot under the diving LAFC Slammers goalkeeper for the game’s first tally.
Now playing with a deficit, LAFC Slammers doubled its effort to find the back of the net. The squad routinely pressed and sent numbers forward, but much like in the early part of the game, MVLA blocked every attempt from entering the cage.
Getting more desperate, LAFC Slammers put everything forward, but as they had all game, MVLA stood tall and at the final whistle, they were National Champions. It was the club’s fourth ECNL National Championship and the second national title for the U17 squad.
“This is an amazing group,” said Erin Montoya, MVLA U17 Coach. “This is the third time in a row we’ve been back here. So to come to face this quality of competition every single game, and to win, it’s an incredible feeling. I’m kind of in shock still. I can’t believe it.”
National Champion: LAFC Slammers
Runner-Up: PDA Blue
In a matchup between two powerhouse clubs, this contest lived up to the hype, with fireworks throughout regulation and even in extra time.
LAFC Slammers tested the PDA Blue backline early and often, creating dangerous chances but each time, the PDA Blue backline diffused it before it reached the goal line. Their backline play eventually fueled the offense, as PDA scored the first goal of the contest just following the first-half water break. PDA Blue carried that 1-0 lead into the half, hoping to add to it in the second 45.
Coming out of the halftime break, LAFC evened the score at 1-1. Both teams came out swinging from the half, but off a counter, LAFC Slammers earned a free-kick outside the box. The shot dropped right in front of the keeper just out of her reach and bounced into the open net to tie the game up.
Wasting no time, PDA Blue immediately regained the lead, marching down the field before burying a shot into the net to make it a 2-1 game. PDA Blue held that lead as the match wound down, with tensions rising higher and higher as LAFC Slammers tried to once again find an equalizer.
With just minutes remaining in regulation, LAFC Slammers did just that. A battle for a loose ball in the six-yard box, LAFC Slammers was able to poke the ball across the line to bring the game to 2-2 and force extra time.
In the extra 20 minutes, LAFC took their momentum and used it to their advantage, adding two more goals, including a beautiful strike from the right side of the 18-yard box, clinching the trophy in the process.
“We feel amazing, we were down twice and whenever you come back, it speaks to the character of the individuals, the collective effort of the group,” said Cheyne Gordon, LAFC Slammers Coach. “We sacrificed a lot to come here and try to win a national championship, so the fact they dug deep and stayed true to that character is pretty special.”
National Champion: Solar SC
Runner-Up: So Cal Blues
Two more club juggernauts met in the U14 National Championship match, and what resulted was an instant classic.
Solar SC controlled much of the play for the majority of the first half, with So Cal Blues content with sitting back and thwarting any Solar attack that came its way. That play continued through the water break, but as Solar kept creating chances, it got closer and closer to the back of the net.
Finally, just before halftime, the So Cal Blues defense broke. After blocking a shot, there was a scramble inside the six-yard box for the loose ball, which squirted out and into the back of the net to give Solar a 1-0 lead heading into the second half.
Within the first 15 minutes of the second half, Solar doubled its lead to 2-0. With a long-range free-kick, Solar SC laces a shot into the box that was met by the diving So Cal Blues goalkeeper. However, the rebound went right to the Solar attack and they made no mistake about it, converting the shot for a tally.
So Cal Blues immediately started its comeback attempt, scoring just minutes following Solar’s second score. Now trailing 2-1 and using the water break to make adjustments, So Cal Blues was aiming to continue its momentum.
Both sides traded chances as the final whistle neared, however, the Solar SC defense was too much for So Cal Blues to solve a second time, and the Texas club took the U14 National Championship match.
“It’s always a unique feeling, it’s a great feeling to have the girls come all the way to the top of a mountain and win a championship,” said Adrian Solca, Solar SC Director of Coaching. “They were super motivated to play here. They were defending well, they really wanted to be the champions and I’m proud to say now they are.”
National Champion: LAFC Slammers
Runner-Up: Eclipse Select
In the youngest age group at the National Finals, these two teams showed the future was very bright in an incredibly hard-fought National Championship match.
Both teams prided themselves on defensive play, and the National Championship match was no different. LAFC and Eclipse Select raced up and down the field, searching for a goal. Free-kicks, corner kicks, run of play, it didn’t matter. Each time one team got close to the goal, the other would shut the door and immediately counter, looking for their own scoring chance.
Eventually 80 minutes wasn’t enough, forcing both sides to head to extra time. And even an additional 10 minutes couldn’t put one team over the other, sending the contest to penalty kicks.
In the shootout, LAFC Slammers eventually recorded one more goal than Eclipse Select, securing the team’s first National Championship.
“It feels fantastic to win this game,” said Pete Aguirre, LAFC Slammers Coach. “These girls have had a long journey. To finish the season undefeated is a special feat, but to finish it in this fashion makes it that much more special.”
KC Athletics Advances
Fresh off a big win in the quarterfinals, KC Athletics took an emotional win over World Class FC to move on to the National Championship contest.
Minutes into the contest, KC Athletics capitalized on a scoring chance to take a 1-0 lead. After a shot was saved by the World Class goalkeeper, KC Athletics crashed the net and sent home the rebound for the score.
That 1-0 lead held all the way through the contest until just seconds before the final whistle, when World Class was awarded a penalty kick. Stepping up to the spot, World Class buried its shot into the bottom left corner of the net, tying the game and sending it straight to penalties.
In the penalty shootout, the teams traded goals and saves until eventually, KC Athletics was able to get one more past the goalkeeper than World Class, securing its place in the National Championship match.
San Diego Surf Advances
San Diego Surf battled with Solar SC for a chance at a spot in the National Championship, and the two sides gave it everything they had.
Surf opened up the scoring early in the first half, controlling a rebound off a shot and converting an easy tap-in to take a 1-0 lead. But then just minutes later, Solar responded with a goal of their own, tying the game at 1-1.
That score held through the majority of the first and second halves, and it wasn’t until there was less than 10 minutes on the clock did Surf once again find the back of the net. But then once again, as soon as Surf took a lead, Solar responded, burying a shot just seconds before the final whistle to force the game to penalty kicks.
In penalty kicks, San Diego Surf converted on three penalty kicks, while also not allowing a single goal, to punch its ticket to the National Championship game.
With all of Sunday’s drama, it also wasn’t until the final contest ended did a team clinch the ECNL Girls’ overall club championship. Heading into Sunday, Solar SC held a 15 point lead on LAFC Slammers and it was anybody’s title to win.
As the day progressed, LAFC lost the U17 National Championship, but won the U16. Meanwhile, Solar SC won the U14 National Championship. However, with the U13 National Championship win in penalty kicks, LAFC Slammers locked in the overall club championship, becoming the first back-to-back champions in ECNL history.
“An overall club championship, that is the standard,” Aguirre said. “To be able to accomplish it again, it’s a reflection of what this club is all about and what the girls bring to the table every game.”
To see the ECNL Girls National Finals scores, schedules and more, click here.