Jefferson Cup: Palm Beach MagicJacks win U14 Girls’ Championship division
21 Mar, 2011
By Charles Boehm
Richmond, Va. – On a Sunday chock-full of quality girls’ soccer at the Jefferson Cup, one of the most intriguing matches of the tournament turned out to be the U14 Championship division final at Bryan Park between Palm Beach MagicJacks (Fla.) and Penn Fusion SA ‘96 (Pa.).
Both teams entered the tourney with high regional and national rankings, and both were fairly dominant in Jefferson Cup group play with undefeated records and impressive goal differentials. But the opening stages of the final can only be described as an ambush of brutal proportions as the Floridians jumped all over their opponents right from the start.
MagicJacks snatched the game’s opening goal on a strike from one of their guest players within seconds of kickoff, putting Fusion on the back foot from the first minute. Moments later Bryce Watts, Fusion’s leading striker, crashed to the turf following a meaty collision with a MagicJacks defender that left Watts limping off the field in tears as her team’s fans angrily contended that an elbow had been delivered to her face.
Watts would return to the action. But the tone of the match had been set and her team never really recovered, especially after Palm Beach rattled off two more goals to take a commanding 3-0 lead by the time half an hour had been played. Both tallies were well earned, speedy striker Celene Gayle’s finish inside the box followed by a 20-yard bomb into the top corner from the foot of Giovana Giraldo.
Yet Giraldo’s greater contribution was her relentless patrolling of the central midfield all game long, which made it difficult for the Pennsylvanians to keep possession and build attacks. Behind her, a hard-nosed back line led by Ally Prissock waited to break up any further incursions, taking advantage of the referee’s inclination to allow physical play throughout the game.
Penn Fusion were clearly rattled by their poor start and that frustration mounted after a controversial sequence just before halftime. MagicJacks goalkeeper Courtney Tompkins came off her line and upended a Fusion player in a one-on-one situation inside the penalty box, but instead of awarding a penalty kick and possibly even a red card to Tompkins as well, the referee allowed play to continue. Despite the injured Fusion player sprawled back in the MagicJacks box, action swung the other way and Gayle nearly scored on another one-v-one at the other end of the field.
That non-call may have been Penn Fusion’s only hope for springing a comeback, though they rallied gamely in the second half as Haleigh Echard pulled back a goal to close the gap and Leah Becker worked hard in midfield. But Palm Beach never really looked troubled and they were good value for their 3-1 victory, which showcased a diverse array of talent throughout the squad and vindicated coach/manager Dan Borislow’s decision to make the long trip from south Florida.
“They beat us last time and it’s a very, very tough team, a great team from Pennsylvania,” said Borislow of his team’s opponents. ““[Jefferson Cup] is one of the three best tournaments on the East Coast and if you want to be the best, you’ve got to play the best.”
Borislow, who also owns MagicJack’s Washington Freedom, the Women’s Professional Soccer franchise which is in the process of relocating from Washington, D.C. to south Florida, went on to pay tribute to his own squad, which also features his daughter Kylie.
“We had a couple girls come in from California that have been playing with us for a couple of years, he said. “We have a couple guest players that come from different parts of the country – it’s pretty hard melding them, but superior talent normally comes through.
“I think most of these girls will be [NCAA] Division I players.”