By Jimmy LaRoue
Waukegan, Ill.– Morgan Reuther scored twice to lead McLean Youth Soccer to a 3-1 win Saturday over Minnesota Thunder Academy, winning the 2012 Under-17 Elite Clubs National League Challenge B championship.
The match was the final game of the week in the ECNL National Finals held at the Waukegan SportsPark, and a rematch of the two teams’ 2-2 tie at the ECNL’s PDA Showcase in late May.
McLean coach Clyde Watson said the rematch was an opportunity “to challenge ourselves” against a talented Minnesota Thunder team that scored 52 goals in 17 Flight B games.
After Kylie Schwarz tied the match at 1-1 on a low, long-range effort, Reuther, a University of Virginia commit, went to work.
Reuther scored the first of her two goals on a curling, 18-yard shot into the upper right corner, then soon after scored McLean’s third on a header.
“I think it’s just reward for a kid who’s worked hard,” Watson said, adding that “the best part of her game is still ahead of her.”
Watson said the team started slowly in its opening match at Waukegan, a 3-2 quarterfinal win over Charlotte Soccer Academy, but improved with its 4-2 win over Washington Premier to reach the final.
“The most important thing is that I wanted us to play well,” Watson said about the team’s outlook going into the Challenge B championships. “The first game we didn’t, but by the second game we started to play better.”
But even in not playing well, it advanced to the final and won it, prevailing in three games over three days to take the Flight B title. McLean will head into a new season in the fall in which the division among Flight A and Flight B teams, renamed Challenge A and Challenge B in the championship event, is expected to be eliminated.
McLean came into the championships as the top seed in Challenge B, finishing with an 11-1-2 record, having scored 32 goals while giving up just 10. In a competitive Mid-Atlantic Conference, McLean finished sixth out of 10 teams with a 7-7-2 record.
Watson said he would reflect and feel proud of this team’s accomplishments this season, culminating in the national Challenge B title. He said he hopes the team will keep this in perspective, knowing that many players never get to call themselves national champions.
He said it would hit him more after he returned home what this team has been able to accomplish.
“This is a special group,” Watson said. “I’ve been fortunate for taking previous teams and winning the national championship and this group, they weren’t supposed to. I believed they would one day, and they came to believe when nobody else did, so I think it’s a just reward.”