ECNL concludes first National Event of 2021 in Sanford, Florida
The ECNL Florida National Event wrapped up Sunday, bringing an end to the league’s first showcase of 2021.
[+Daily Recaps: Day 1 | Day 2]
See below for a rundown of highlights from Day 3:
Late Game Heroics
A win is always sweet. Turning one point into three just before the final whistle? Even sweeter.
Wilmington Hammerheads U-17s experienced this exhilaration in their match Sunday morning against Racing Louisville FC, scoring their lone goal deep into the second half.
Wilmington was pushing and applying pressure in the final third, but the telling ball seemed just out of reach and intercepted by the Racing defense. Finally, on an attempted clear by Louisville Kaylee Risher got her body on the ball, springing herself for a breakaway. She then knocked the ball past the outstretched keeper for the tally, and just minutes later, the final whistle sounded.
While the goal secured the victory, had it not been for the play of goalkeeper Bella Ellison, the Hammerheads wouldn’t have been able to earn three points in the first place.
[+READ: Top 50 ECNL Girls players in the InStat Index: Fall 2020]
Racing Louisville peppered the Wilmington net with shots and earlier in the second half, it appeared they were going to find paydirt. However, Ellison made three diving saves within 10 seconds of each other, stopping an initial shot from in close and the two successive rebounds before snagging the loose ball to halt the opposing attack.
“Bella has had an outstanding weekend,” said Coach Will Heaney. “She’s put in a lot of effort in the last 12 months to improve her game and she showed that today with a big-time performance.”
Entering Sunday, DKSC was still searching for its first victory of the tournament. When the team left the complex, they had their win in hand.
DKSC competed in all three phases, defending well in their own end, moving the ball quickly through the middle of the field, and generating legitimate scoring chances in the final third. The team had multiple chances early in the contest but couldn’t find the back of the net, and withstood great counters by GSA as the half came to a close.
Finally, midway through the second half, DKSC was rewarded for their hard work with a free-kick 20 yards from the goal. Alicia Riggins stepped up to the ball and rocketed a shot into the top left corner. The GSA keeper got a hand on it, but it was struck too well and rippled the back of the net.
[+READ: Top 25 Girls Academy and ECNL Goalkeepers in the InStat Index: Fall 2020]
DKSC continued to apply pressure even with the 1-0 lead, which helped solidify the victory as GSA pushed numbers forward in desperation for an equalizer.
“The girls, the effort that they gave today, I think they deserved that result,” said Coach Gerard Voutier. “It felt great to see that ball find the back of the net and then to see the girls turn it around and stay solid defensively and push, it put the game away.”
At the end of the day Friday, Ohio Elite was 3-0-0. On Saturday, the club was 6-0-0. So Sunday afternoon, the organization was determined to get three more wins.
In the 8:00 a.m. time slot, the U-16s made it 7-0-0. At 11:35 a.m., the U-18/19s pushed it to 8-0-0. Which meant it all came down to the U-17s against Scorpions at 3:35 p.m., the last time slot of the tournament.
In a highly competitive match, there was just one goal scored in the entire 80 minutes, and it belonged to Ohio Elite. They won all nine matches, the only club at ECNL Florida to do so.
“It’s a credit to our kids and what they’ve done,” said Head Coach Doug Bracken. “They’ve been really great, the effort has been really great. It’s more of an anomaly than a norm, winning every game. It’s really hard to come to an event in this league with three teams and win every game. But I’m really proud of the kids.”
Around The Pitch
- Along with Ohio Elite, some other clubs with outstanding performances across all age groups include Solar SC (5-0-1), Internationals SC (8-1-0), Tampa Bay United Rowdies (6-1-2) and Sunrise Prime FC (6-1-2).
- FC Stars Blue and White and Scorpions both played their first league games at ECNL Florida.