Club Champions League Showcase: U18 girls teams still have plenty to play for
One of the many big matches at the Fall CCL Showcase at River City Sportsplex on Saturday was a girls game between Loudoun and BRYC, with major CCL standings points, as well as college commitment opportunity and decisions on the line.
BRYC is challenging for top of the CCL table with only one loss headed into the young league’s winter break, but came up against a spirited Loudoun team who did well to neutralize the fast-paced BRYC attack.
Both teams boast several high quality players yet to make – or at least announce publicly – their college destination decisions. And both teams also have a wealth of quality sure to be making headlines in the near future at college near you.
The high paced game was a back and forth battle throughout the first half, but bereft of many real chances with neither team willing to fully commit numbers in the attack. BRYC had more of the ball in the middle third, but neither team was able to generate any serious chances in the attack.
Most of BRYC’s attack was lead by BRYC’s by West Point bound Kaleigh Stallings, who frequently showed for the ball, turned cleanly when it came to her, then chewed up yardage in a blink before playing through balls to her front line. It wasn’t to be however, and the halftime score was knotted at 0-0.
The recipe for the second half was much of the same, with BRYC patiently keeping the ball in their own half until they could spring Stallings, but that tactic was forced to change after a 55th minute goal for Loudoun by Mary Washington commit Christian Carlston.
The lanky, yet technical speedster got behind BRYC’s defense down the right channel, and lashed a strong low ball off the inside of the left post to for the 1-0 lead. It wasn’t a goal against the run of play by any means, and it looked like Loudoun had momentum to see the game home from there.
But the reaction from Braddock Road was abrupt. Going down a goal immediately quickened the frequency of their attacks, and advanced their lines. No longer were they content to work the ball in their own end until Stallings’ could find time to turn, or to play the ball wide to future Hokie Jennifer Boyles on the right flank. Instead, they pressed higher and kept the ball in Loudoun’s half seemingly at will.
Wave after wave surrounded Loudoun’s box, generated much by the energy and hustle of the yet uncommitted duo of Marissa Wood and Charlotte Hyland down the left channel with Boyles and Stalling keeping up the pressure down the right.
The pressure valve finally blew with Wood the primary catalyst for the umpteenth time in the rainy contest.
The tying goal started when Wood first hustled after a seemingly hopeless chance at blocking another long Loudoun defensive clearance, but this time was rewarded when the desperate ball struck her foot pure and rebounded behind the initiating defender. The rebound was so hard, it threatened to ricochet 30 yards backwards and out for a harmless goal kick, but Wood had other ideas. She hit the ground running after her block, muscled through the much tall defender, and at full speed was able to wrap her left foot around the ball just before it went over the end line to curl a perfect cross to the far post.
Ali Hartman was waiting at that far post unmarked with the defense caught in recovery mode after rightfully not expecting Wood to either block the clearance, nor catch up to the resulting rebound. The Lynchburg commit had time and used it well, burying the header back across goal to tie the game with about 10 minutes left.
BRYC wasted no time after the restart hunting for the winner, picking up where they left off with high pressure and desire. Most of the attack continued down the left channel, with more action inside the box than before, earning several corners in the process.
Such was the pressure at that point, that Penn State bound Kaleigh Riehl was able to push forward from left back to spend most of her time barely 10 yards from the left corner of the Loudoun’s box. She was repeatedly positioned well to cut out several clearance attempts, killing them out of the air down to the ground with a single touch, then quickly finding the feet of a teammate.
Riehl, who is graduating high school early to start at State College this spring, almost scored herself when she pulled down a 2nd ball off a corner, made space for herself at the top of the box and ripped a shot clearly heading under the cross bar in the center of goal. Though Loudoun goalkeeper Jessie Ambrosio was in the right spot and saw it coming all the way, she was still only able to push the missile over the bar for another corner.
Braddock Road’s go ahead tally came barely a minute later when Hyland made a run from deep to fill a space down the left vacated when Wood had pursued the action all the way to the right. She found herself wide open and received a perfect feed from none other than Stallings just in time. After killing the ball perfectly with her first touch, she cracked it with her second, but appeared to have aimed just off course. Then the drive caught the leg of recovering defender Taylor Hicks, and spun past the helpless Ambrosio for the winner.
Such was the momentum of BRYC over the last 20 minutes, they had trouble pulling back the reigns despite the 2-1 lead, and it could have cost them. Head coach Mark Dolansky tried to slow things down by making a time killing substitution, but his team was having none of it, and continued attacking as if they were still down a goal.
They were lucky as several Loudoun clearances nearly found their way through at midfield, but only found the feet of blue clad defenders before any real counter attack was mounted. The pattern continued until the final whistle saved them the potential heartbreak.
There is a saying along the lines of “the harder I work, the luckier I get”, and that was certainly the case as BRYC outworked Loudoun in the second half, and ended up lucky to get a deflected own-goal to take all three points. And that luck isn’t likely to to end here, as some college programs will certainly consider themselves lucky to land the uncommitted Wood and Hyland, as well as others on both sides of the well contested result.
Afterwards, Dolansky was full of pride for his team and praise for the event after the match, telling SoccerWire.com, “Our team did some good things today, we really wanted the girls to have an opportunity to show well in front of the college coaches. With a relatively new league, we want this to become a tournament that is a must-see for colleges, and these girls that are playing this weekend are going to leave a legacy for the ones that are coming behind. I think it’s got a great opportunity to build into a great event.”
League action continues on Sunday for Loudoun as they face Arlington at 11:00 am on Field 1 at River City.
BRYC’s plays a non-league game against CCL Showcase guest team Triangle FC from North Carolina also at River City at 12:30 pm on Field 7.
BRYC’s win gives them some breathing room over Loudoun in the U18 table, but following Fredericksburg FC’s (formally known as FASA) 7-0 dismantling of a 9-player McLean team shorted by ECNL commitments in Ohio, they will be chasing the two-time CCL Champions who have only a single tie as a blemish on their near perfect start so far.