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ECNL Apr 01, 2023

ECNL Girls National Selection Game in Phoenix evenly-matched as East Team wins 2-1

Friday night’s ECNL Girls National Selection Game in Phoenix was filled with some extraordinary highlights to remember.

The scoring opened quickly on Friday night. Izzy Engle (Minnesota Thunder Academy) made a huge run from the midfield to break through the West defense and fired home the first goal of the night to put the East on top 1-0.

After the game, Engle said she didn’t realize her shot had gone in at first. “I shot it far post and the goalie made a really good save, so I thought it was a good effort, but it didn’t go in, and then everyone started cheering, and I turned around and was like oh that went in,” Engle said. “I just hugged all of them and it was just really special.”

In the 35th minute, the East extended their lead when Sophia Sindelar (Internationals SC) curled a shot from outside the box into the bottom left corner to double the East’s lead.

“We had a really good buildup from the back,” Sindelar said. “I got it and saw one defender, so I just created some space for myself and tried to bend it to the back post.”

The West came out firing in the second half as they looked to get themselves back into the game. In the 51st minute, a long range effort nearly found the back of the net, but was deflected into the crossbar to just narrowly miss putting the West on the board.

Just minutes late though, in the 53rd minute, Shaela Bradley (Portland Thorns Academy) got the ball on her own side, dribbled around two defenders on a long run into the East’s side of the field, and launched a missile into the back of the net to cut the lead in half.

Not only was the night filled with some incredible goals, but throughout the game the goalkeepers on both sides made some spectacular saves. For the East, Sophia Kling (FC Stars Blue) and Kaiya Jota (LA Breakers FC) were tremendous to help preserve the East’s lead throughout the night, while on the West side, Blayke Warner (Pacific Northwest SC) and Izabella Duink (San Juan SC) held out a bevy of chances from the East throughout the game to keep the West within striking distance all night.

In the final minutes of the game, the West poured the pressure on the East defense in search of the equalizer. From corner kicks to multiple chances inside the box, the West looked like they would find the game tying goal on a number of occasions, but the East defense held strong until the final whistle to preserve the 2-1 victory.

Afterwards, Engle emphasized how great the atmosphere was to play in front of so many fans who came out and showed support throughout the night for all the players on both teams.

“It’s just electric and so much fun,” said Engle. “Every play you make you can hear someone’s fans in the crowd. It’s always a blast and it’s so much fun playing with new people and getting to experience something like this.”

Not only was it an opportunity to play on a big stage, but both Engle and Sindelar talked about how memorable it was for them to meet so many new teammates that normally they would not get the chance to play with, and how that made the night such an unforgettable experience for the both of them.

“I just think it’s such a cool experience and I’m so grateful that the ECNL does this because you get to meet new people and play with new people that you wouldn’t play with, and it’s just a really fun bonding experience,” said Engle.

“It’s really fun experiencing people from all over the country. We have a bunch of people from all over and it’s just electric and the most fun I’ve had,” said Sindelar. “It’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget.”