First ECNL Girls National Selection Game of the season sees East Team win in Phoenix
On Friday night, some of the best talent from the ECNL Girls took the field as the East and West faced off in the first ECNL National Selection Game of the season.
Friday’s game featured players from the U16-U18/19 age groups, and the action did not disappoint.
Both the East and West came out attacking and generated scoring opportunities on both sides of the field. As the first half progressed though, the East began to control much of the possession and flow of the game. Generating chance after chance it seemed certain the East would open the scoring before halftime.
The West defense held strong throughout the entirety of the half though. Aided by some excellent goalkeeping and a key goal line clearance late in the half, the West managed to hold the East off and go into the half scoreless.
In the second half the West came out and initially were able to control a little more of the possession than they had in the first half. Both teams once again generated some extremely close scoring opportunities throughout the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
— ECNL Girls (@ECNLgirls) November 12, 2022
The East soon rediscovered their rhythm though, and the breakthrough finally came.
With the East on the attack, Grace Restovich was taken down just outside the box. Restovich quickly took the free kick and slid the ball over to Yuna McCormack who was able to slip past the West defense. McCormack then slotted one home to open the scoring and put the East on top 1-0.
“I could tell the defense wasn’t kind of set up, so I looked at Yuna and said quick, quick and made eye contact,” Restovich said. “I trusted her, and she trusted me, and then she finished it.”
“She recognized that the defense was still setting up, so she played me, and I was in a good position to score and just had to finish it,” McCormack said, crediting the quick intuition of Restovich.
The West attempted to mount a comeback throughout the second half, but the East held strong defensively throughout.
In the dying minutes of the game, Andrea Ilijkic added on a second goal for the East to seal things up and ultimately give them a 2-0 victory.
For all the players, the game was an incredible experience, and the support and atmosphere the fans created for them was extremely memorable.
“It was super exciting. My teammates made posters for me and were shouting for me. I really appreciated it and I wanted to share it with them,” said McCormack, who celebrated not only with her East teammates after her goal, but was also mobbed by her Bay Area Surf teammates as well.
Not only was it exciting for the players to have their regular teammates cheering them on from the stands, but seeing players they normally compete against cheering them on as well made the experience truly unique.
“It was awesome. So many people, so many supporters, it was so fun,” Restovich said. “Seeing teammates and seeing players you play against throughout the league cheering for you. Everyone kind of comes together and it’s so fun and kind of like a family atmosphere.”