ECNL FLORIDA – REGIONAL LEAGUE DAY 1 RECAP: BORN FOR ADVERSITY
Born For Adversity
On Day 1 at the ECNL Florida – Regional League showcase, Kansas City Athletics’ U17s started with their backs toward the wall. The team faced off against Concorde Fire and did so with multiple players lining up in different positions.
But that didn’t matter.
The squad was resilient throughout the match, earning a 3-0 victory to open their national showcase schedule.
One of the players who stepped up and made an impact for her team, despite playing in a non-natural position, was Athletics’ Piper Ziegler. Ziegler normally plays as a center back, but due to the team’s need for shuffling, she played as a defensive mid. And not only was she playing out of position, but she was also playing a year up.
A tough environment for any athlete, but one that could lead to a big day on the field. For Ziegler at ECNLFL – Regional League, it was most definitely a big day on the pitch.
Ziegler opened the scoring for Kansas City, finding the back of the net in the 20th minute. And with that scoring touch also came precision passing. Known for being a catalyst out of the back for the Athletics, Ziegler dropped dimes throughout the game, earning her an assist later in the match.
Thanks to Ziegler’s tally, Kansas City headed into the second half with a 1-0 lead and quickly made it a 2-0 game in the 49th minute off a shot from Abigail Crim. With its lead doubled, Kansas City settled into the game and was methodical in denying Concorde Fire’s attacks while also looking for its scoring opportunities. The Kansas City attack never quit, and in the 88th minute, Mikayla Ernst iced the game for the Athletics.
It was a big 3-0 win for the club, one coach Matt Gordan made sure to relay to his team after the game.
“This team had a lot of adversity today,” Gordan said. “I told them after the game, they welcomed that adversity and to see them embrace it was really, really cool. They encapsulated one of our club’s core values, which is to compete. They showed amazing resilience and grit and focused on the moment, which is everything that you want from a college showcase.”
With a victory, Kansas City kicked off its national showcase on the right foot, and will look to continue that success throughout the weekend.
“Our club participates in the Club Competition as well, and we’ve really bought in to the league,” Gordan said. “Having so many coaches on the sidelines today, and not just watching our game but our players to, and to get the win, it makes everything worth it.”
New Kids on the Block
North Texas Celtic FC has had a solid stretch in the first half of the 2021-22 season. The club joined the North Texas Regional League in 2021, and in the club’s first season in the Regional League, the organization’s U18 squad has a 10-0-1 record, sitting just .018 points percentage off first place.
“The girls have put in a lot of great work in the regular season so far,” said coach Michale Mayes. “So it was exciting for us to come here and compete in a national showcase.”
So heading into ECNLFL – Regional League, North Texas Celtic FC wanted to continue its impressive run of play. Battling SUSA FC in the first wave of games at ECNLFL – Regional League, the team made sure to follow through.
During the first 20 minutes of the game, the two sides felt each other out, but as the half wore on, the field started tilting further and further into North Texas Celtic’s favor. In the 25th minute, the side was finally rewarded.
Madysen Harshman opened the scoring for North Texas Celtic FC, beating the goalkeeper with her shot to take a 1-0 lead. Then seven minutes later, Bella Campos doubled her squad’s lead when she found the back of the net.
Two goals in quick succession and North Texas Celtic FC cruised to a halftime lead. But coming out of the break, SUSA FC was determined to find a way to claw back into the game.
“I thought we did a good job early on of trying to find ways through SUSA’s backline,” Mayes said. “And their defense was great all game. So it was good for us to get those two on the board.”
From the first whistle of the second half, SUSA FC put numbers forward. The club made its attack in waves, putting more and more pressure on the North Texas Celtic FC backline. But with every attack, the North Texas Celtic FC defense held strong, which in turn, pushed SUSA to send more attacking players.
But the stellar play of the North Texas Celtic FC and goalkeeper Natalie Mayes kept the ball out of the back for the whole game, and at the final whistle, the team had a hard-fought 2-0 win.
“Our defense and our goalkeeper really set the tone for the second half,” Mayes said. “They really helped keep the clean sheet. SUSA is a fantastic team and they really pressured us in the second half, and they kept everything together, stay disciplined and weathered the storm. It was awesome to keep the clean sheet.”
With a win under the team’s belt, North Texas Celtic FC will continue to play its brand of soccer, one that has led to success in league play and now at showcases. The key will be bringing that same energy and mentality to the second half, when matchups against the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the conference.
“I can’t say enough good things about our Regional League,” Mayes said. “It’s great to have the competition and it’s been really great from a recruiting standpoint, to take advantage of the opportunity to come here to this event and see the college coaches. And now we’ll take this success into our future games in the spring against the teams ahead of us.”
To view the complete scores and schedule, click here.