Old guard, newbies square off in heated Jeff Cup girls U-15 Championship final
RICHMOND, Va. — On the last day of the Jefferson Cup, emotions can flare up pretty quickly. The girls Under-15 Championship final between New Jersey powerhouse PDA O’Reilly and ASA Azzurri of Gambrills, Md., on Sunday was no exception.
Two penalties and plenty of physical play prompted some heated commentary from the sidelines. But the girls kept playing and PDA came out on top with the 2-1 victory.
After a 2-0 victory over FC Copa Academy Celeste in the morning, Azzurri kept the pressure going, and got the first goal of the game in the first five minutes.
The Maryland side’s forwards charged up front and pulled off a quick passing combination that led to a top-shelf finish off the first touch.
Stung by the early strike — only the second goal they’d allowed all weekend — PDA took control afterwards and kept attacking the net. Even when Azzurri got the ball back, PDA would find their way back into possession within 30 seconds most every time. But with nothing going on goal, the score remained 1-0.
“We try and keep it on the ground, keep a lot of short passes and work in behind the defense that way,” said PDA head coach Tom Anderson.
That lasted until five minutes left in the half. After a member of the central Jersey team was shoved in the box, the ref awarded a penalty to PDA.
Up stepped Brianna Urbanski. She stroked her spot kick into the bottom right corner, just past the outstretched hands of the goalkeeper to knot the game up going into the break.
PDA continued to control possession in the second half. Azzurri tried to get the ball back, but were stopped by the whistle almost every time. Seven of the first eight fouls in the second frame went against Azzurri, leaving their fans frustrated.
Halfway through the second frame, PDA broke out on the break, and when their player on the ball slipped in the penalty box near an Azzurri player, the ref whistled another for PK, sparking incredibly vocal objections along the sidelines.
Azzurri players tried to convince the referee otherwise, but to no avail. Urbanski was called upon once again, this time to give PDA the lead. Her shot flew to Azzurri goalkeeper Megan Hickey’s right side, but she saw it the whole way and knocked it away, then hopped back up and stopped the rebound attempt as well, keeping Azzurri in the match.
With five minutes left, PDA got one last free kick from just inside midfield. With a lob that fell at the penalty spot, Ciarra Snyder leaped up and knocked it over Hickey for the final goal of the game, earning the right to bring the championship trophy home to the Garden State.
“Both teams competed at the highest level. It was a 2-1 game. What more can you say?” said Anderson.
Even though they came up just short, there was still a lot to be happy for with the Azzurri at the end of the weekend, noted head coach Kerry Brimmer. This was the first time this team made it to the Championship level (the top tier of competition) at Jeff Cup.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them. I’ve had most of these girls since they were eight,” said Brimmer. “And so to come up against such a huge club like PDA and go 2-1? I couldn’t be more proud.”