Jefferson Cup: Day One, Girls’ U-17 Championship division
The Richmond Strikers’ West Creek facility hosted to a full day of Under 16, Under 17 and Under 18 action which provided ample scouting opportunities for the dozens of college coaches in attendance from across the eastern United States.
Several matches and performances stood out, starting with a clash of nationally ranked U17 powerhouses, Quickstrike FC and Georgia’s United Football Academy Elite, in the U17 Championship division.
Based just north of West Point, N.Y. in the Hudson River valley, Quickstrike appeared to be the team to beat after scoring only a few minutes into the first half. Mallory Peterson played in a perfect corner kick for Kimberly Sharo, a senior who has committed to the University of Louisville, who buried it in the net with a powerful header. However, a halftime pep talk from head coach Iggy Moleka inspired UFA Elite to dig deep for the second half.
Lilian Rios led the Georgians’ comeback with a brace of goals. Her first, a strong shot from the top of the eighteen, was deflected in by a Quickstrike defender while her second strike was a perfect strike to the far post from nearly the same spot. Teammate Abby Toner beat several defenders before delivering the killer pass that set up Rios’ gamewinner.
“I was a little bit nervous because they all just came from high school [play] and we haven’t had a lot of training as a team, so for them to come together like that was just tremendous,” said Moleka. “They had to keep it simple and get used to each other, but they came out hard. I told them to keep it simple at halftime. [Quickstrike FC] was a very good team.”
In terms of individual showcases, UFA strikers Cheyna Williams and Alexa Allen stood out with their speed, quick feet and attacking instincts; both are 2012 graduates who have already committed to Southeastern Conference contenders Vanderbilt and Auburn.
Other U17 Championship action
Albertson SC Fury (N.Y.) vs. Scorpions SC (Mass.)
Final Score: 0-4
Scorpions head coach Keith Caldwell calls his squad a “blue-collar team,” and that was evident when the Scorpions efficiently put away the Fury with three quick goals in the first half. The Fury came back with new legs for the final minutes, but couldn’t find the net.
“They were in a bit of a funk this fall, we had a lot of new players and it took us a while to jell, but we’ve been getting better and better with every session and every game,” said Caldwell of his squad. “We came out strong and finished strong.”
The Scorpions’ first and second goals came from Lauren Varela. The first goal was assisted by Shannon Conneely, and the second, a beautiful near-post corner kick by Kathryn Hiller, was headed backwards by Varela into the net. Hiller added an insurance goal to end the first half 3-0. The final goal came from Darci Vierra, who slid in with her left foot to poke home a cross from Delaney Lancor.
Elsewhere in the U-17 Championship division, northern Virginia side Chantilly Burn trailed for most of their match against Real New Jersey SC Power thanks to Katelyn Kraft’s first-half strike, but Chantilly scrounged up a late equalizer to earn a 1-1 draw in a bruising, physical contest.
“We did well against a very strong, athletic team. At the end, a good result for us, but conceding a goal ten minutes before the end is never fun,” said Real New Jersey coach Erwin van Bennekom. “But a well-played game from both sides.”
Chantilly’s current team is sending a long list of players on to Princeton, James Madison and other college programs and their ability shone through despite a draining week.
“We were out in [Las] Vegas [for the College Showcase] last week, so the kids were a bit tired today,” said Burn head coach Mike Jorden. “But we’re here to showcase [players].”