ECNL REGIONAL LEAGUE FLORIDA RECAP DAY ONE: STARS SHINE BRIGHT IN RLSG

On Friday night, some of the top talent that will be in action this weekend at ECNL Regional League Florida all graced the field together as the ECNL Girls Regional League Selection Game took center stage.

Throughout much of the first half the defensive skill of both teams was on display. Both the East and West controlled possession through stretches of the first half and generated some scoring opportunities, but the scoring did not open up until the 38th minute.

Sania Dearing (Sporting Columbus) worked her way past the East defense and into the box with some fantastic attacking play and was able to slide one past the keeper to put the West on the board first.

Reflecting on her goal, Dearing said her mindset was, “If I beat her, get around her, and cut towards the goal, I can get a shot off.”

It did not take the East long to respond though, as they were awarded a penalty just before halftime.

Amelia Breton (WNY Flash) calmly stepped up and buried the penalty in the upper right corner to level things at 1-1 heading into the break.

In the 51st minute, the West regained their advantage when Alaina Webb (Sporting United FC) found herself in the right place at the right time and was able to put home a rebound to put the West up 2-1.

The East immediately battled back again.

In the 54th minute, Katie Lutz (Virginia Reign) hammered one past the goalie with her right foot to once again level the match, this time at 2-2.

The West would eventually find the goal that proved to be the match winner though. Ava Lukyan (FC 1974 Elite) made a great run down the left side and was able to pick out a great pass to Victoria Pou Varona (Orlando City YS) who slotted it home to put the West up 3-2.

While the pass was perfectly set up, Pou Varona made an excellent run into the box that she credited to her intuition as a forward.

“As a forward, all I do is finish. So, it was just a kind of intuition,” Pou Varona said.

The West would not surrender their lead from that point on, but they did tack on an additional goal. Sania Dearing, who opened the scoring, found her second goal of the night in the 80th minute to cap things off and give the West a 4-2 victory.

For Pou Varona and Dearing, the night was especially meaningful to them, getting the opportunity to prove themselves on such a big stage, while also seeing the support of their teammates.

“Being a part of this game means a lot to me,” Pou Varona said. “Coming from being told that I couldn’t ever make it here, I truly appreciate the opportunity that I got being here.”

“I love my club so much. All my teammates are right here. They’re cheering for me and they’re such a big support,” Dearing said. “I just want to thank them all for coming out here to support me.”

Pou Varona credited the chemistry the players were able to quickly establish with each other before the game as a huge factor in their success on the evening.

“I think with us all coming from different places, we just wanted to get a feeling as sisters like we do with our teams at home,” Pou Varona said. “I think it was just really important to us to all come together and be a team and we went out there and did it.”