By Roger Gonzalez
Montgomery SC Coyotes Green Under-14s girls put together a brilliant cup run to take home a 2012 U.S. Youth Soccer Region I championship in Lancaster, Pa. this week, and they did so in the most nerve-racking fashion possible, winning the semifinals and final in penalty kicks.
The achievement marks a major step forward for the Coyotes, perennial contenders in Maryland State Cup and top Washington Area Girls Soccer League divisions who fell just short of the knockout stages at the 2011 Region I event.
“I think last year when we were there, it was a good experience for us,” the team’s coach, Alexander Gould, told The Soccer Wire. “We were disappointed that we weren’t able to get through [the group stage]. We didn’t get through based on goal differential.
“This time, looking at the group once they came out, we felt pretty confident that we would get to the finals. That was a goal that we had in early spring…It was something we felt like we had a good chance of doing.”
The squad opened up the competition with two dominant victories, winning 9-0 over Black Watch (R.I.) and 4-0 against Velocity Soccer Club (Me.).
“It was definitely difficult for them to come up with us,” Gould said.
“We got the starters a little extra rest, so we felt like they had a very good jump in the semis and finals.”
The ladies then faced WVSC Rowdies (W.V.), winning 1-0 and taking the starters out at halftime as they clinched the group.
“In that game, we actually could have lost 2-0 and still moved on,” Gould said.
In the semifinals, a 0-0 result saw the squad advance to the final, knocking off Super Nova 98 (Pa.) in penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw, slipping by 4-3 in the decisive shootout.
“Our goalie came up big,” said Gould of netminder Kristen Darragh.
“That was a team that we had played [over] Memorial Day. We controlled most of the play, had almost all of the chances, just couldn’t score. That game could have been 2-0, 3-0.
“We were actually down early on [in the shootout]. They had an opportunity to win it, and she made a couple of saves to get us back in it.”
Then, in the biggest game of all, another penalty kick shootout decided the winner in the cup final, with the girls from Maryland reaching the summit 4-2 after another scoreless draw.
“Everyone certainly thought it was a possibility for us,” said Gould of the title. “They were definitely going crazy. The one thing we told them was to enjoy this. This might be there only chance to get to nationals. We are feeling confident that we can play well.”
The team will now head to South Carolina to play in the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships in Rock Hill, S.C. from July 24-29. Though it will mark Coyotes Green’s first appearance at nationals, coach and players alike are quietly confident.
“We only know one of the teams that we are going to be playing,” Gould said. “Based on what we are anticipating, we feel like we have a good chance to win.”