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ECNL Feb 19, 2023

ECNL Girls National Selection Game in Houston dominated by East Team

Saturday night’s ECNL Girls National Selection Game in Houston was a high paced action packed game from the opening whistle. (View Rosters)

Although it took until the second half for the goals to come, the first half featured some compelling end to end action, and excellent scoring opportunities by both teams.

One of the best chances from the opening half came when Payten Cooper (Solar SC) won possession of the ball for the West and played a great ball through to Narissa Fults (Oklahoma Energy FC) who then fired a shot from a tight angle, but just narrowly missed finding the far post to open the scoring.

The best chance for the East came right before halftime. Grace Smith (Challenge SC) was able to get on the end of a free kick from just outside the box and force Madeline Munguia (Pacific Northwest SC) to make a diving save to keep the game scoreless going into the half.

Once the second half arrived though, all the close calls started to find the back of the net. In the 62nd minute, Grace Vest (Sporting Blue Valley) stole the ball on a pass from the West, dribbled around the keeper, and fired it into the back of the net to give the East a 1-0 lead.

The answer from the West came only a minute later though. Fults found her way past the East defense on a ball played over the top of the defense and struck it home to quickly knot the game back up at 1-1.

The East jumped back on top in the 79th minute on the goal of the night from Kennedy Husbands (Sting Dallas Royal). Husbands gained possession of the ball with her back to the goal, dribbled past a defender, and with only a slight bit of space launched a shot high in the air to the back post that was perfectly placed in the side netting to put the East up 2-1.

Just minutes later the East doubled their lead on another amazing goal. Vest made a long run with the ball through the midfield and blasted a long range shot that nearly found the top corner, but instead hit the crossbar and shot straight up into the air, where Kenley Whittaker (Northwest Elite FC) was able to charge in and head home the rebound to double the East lead.

“I just saw space to drive and once I hit that shot I just knew one of my teammates would be there and it was a beautiful finish,” Vest said.

In the 88th minute, the East ended the night with one more long range bomb. Mia Draper Kunz (Eastside FC) fired a shot with her left foot from well outside the box that perfectly found the top left corner, giving the East their fourth goal of the night and capped off a 4-1 victory.

“We just had momentum and it was just amazing after that, those goals were absolutely amazing,” Vest said.

The atmosphere the crowd provided all night was incredible and Vest could barely find the words to describe what it felt like to play in front of them.

“The crowd was just amazing out there, no words to describe it,” Vest said.

Vest also talked about what a privilege it was for her to be in such a big game, and how thankful she was to all her teammates and coaches for helping her get to this momentum.

“I’m just so thankful and honored to be here and just to be picked out of all these people,” Vest said. “I’m just so thankful for my teammates and my coaches who got me here, I wouldn’t be the player that I am without them.”

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