FC Wisconsin Eclipse descended on Phoenix for the first ECNL National Event of the year this past weekend. With 3 games per team over 3 days, the club finished with 2 undefeated teams
The FC Wisconsin Eclipse U15-U18 teams descended on Phoenix, Arizona for the first ECNL National Event of the year from Friday, November 14 - Sunday, November 16. With 3 games per team over 3 days, the club finished with 2 undefeated teams and a 4-4-4 record overall - showing continued progress and growth against the nation's best female youth soccer teams.
Match-ups throughout the event featured a west coast theme for the club, with multiple games against top clubs from California, Arizona, and Colorado, among other states. Over the 3 days of competition, the U15s faced Sereno SC (AZ), SC Sel Sol (AZ), and Utah Avalanche, the U16s met Santa Rosa United (CA), Pleasanton Rage (CA), and Utah Avalanche, the U17s went head to head with Colorado Rush, Irvine Strikers (CA), and Pleasanton Rage (CA), and the U18s matched up against MVLA (CA), Sereno (AZ), and TSC Hurricane (OK). With pleasantly warm temperatures and light cloud cover each day, the weather was perfect for competition. To prepare for hosting the nation’s top teams, the Reach 11 Complex was shut down and over-seeded for 6 weeks prior to the event to create an immaculate playing surface and 20 of the best grass fields in the country.
The U15s started the event with a 0-0 tie with Sereno SC (AZ). Goalkeeper Lexi Bullis made some key saves late to preserve the deadlock, and Steph Franczak battled in midfield throughout the game, constantly winning balls and harassing the Sereno players. Though not the team’s best overall performance, earning a point against the Arizona power was not to be taken for granted. On day 2, the team performed significantly better, but soccer can be a cruel game and the result did not show the quality of play. In an 0-4 loss to SC Del Sol, Maddie Frey generated multiple quality chances with probing runs forward, Camryn Hart and Emily Gillen led a solid defensive effort, and Emma Roemer showed moments of dominance in midfield. It was a flattering scoreline for the opposition through some FC WI Eclipse mistakes and heading problems, but the performance overall showed improvement and provided reason for optimism for day 3. That feeling was justified in a great final game performance and a 2-0 win against Utah Avalanche on goals from Emma Jaskaniec and Emma Tabor. Frey was once again consistently dangerous, and Sierra Koch and Hart led a fine defensive performance to preserve the shut-out.
Overall, with a 1-1-1 record at their first ECNL National Event, the U15s continued to show huge progress and growth, and glimpses of a very positive future as their work continues.
TheU16s finished ECNL Phoenix undefeated - their best showing in an ECNL National Event to date. In their first game, the team was rampant against Santa Rosa (CA) in a dominating 4-1 win led by a brace from Taylor Kerwin. Hannah Lech scored the third on a corner kick header, and Bianca Stubler finished the scoring by picking off a pass and finishing a breakaway. Kristina Barczak led the back line, and Jen Wandt was strong in goal to turn away all but one of Santa Rosa’s best attempts. Day 2 saw the U16s race out to a 3-goal first-half lead against Pleasanton Rage (CA), once again spear-headed by 2 goals from Kerwin. This time it was Hannah Compernolle who finished the scoring on a back post tap in after a nice set-up from Stubler. Taylor Tabbert and Maddie Hoitink were dominant on the flanks in the first half, continually pressing and attacking from outside back. The second half was a different story, however, as a significantly more determined Pleasanton team roared back to score twice. Thankfully it was too little too late for the California outfit, and the U16s held on for the win and the 3 points. The final day of competition was a much calmer affair, as two very tired teams faced each other early in the morning. Though having the better of the opportunities, the U16s were unable to put any away and settled for a 0-0 tie with Utah Avalanche. Good defending from Barczak and Katie Slater insured the shut-out and an undefeated weekend.
Heading into Phoenix, 2014-15 had been a cruel season for the U17s, with breaks few and far between in several one goal conference losses. That changed in Arizona, as the team showed great character and determination to join the U16s as the club's undefeated teams in the event. Friday's match-up was perhaps the toughest game for the U17s against perennial national power Colorado Rush. In a performance with no shortage of guts, determination, and physicality, the team took a 2-0 win through two goals from Mary DeWalt, with the second coming late on a counter when Rush pushed all 10 players into the box to try and win a corner goal. The game was a huge emotional boost for the Wisconsin team, with solid defending from the back four of Payton Wesley, Kate Del Fava, Mary Kate Simon and Jess Cooley.
Day two found the U17s facing southern California club Irvine Strikers. MacKenzie O’Connell was dominant in midfield as the team created multiple chances throughout the game but could not find the net. A crossbar from Adi Johnson and a late chance for Delaney Hughes were the best opportunities, but the team would have to settle for a somewhat frustrating scoreless draw. On day three against Pleasanton Rage, Jess Cooley opened her goal-scoring account with a 25-yard blast to stake the team to an early 1-0 lead. The lead stood until the 81st minute when a deflection allowed the Rage to sneak out a 1-1 tie.
With 5 points from 3 games, the U17s proved again how hard they are to beat, came tantalizingly close to 2 more wins, and have hopefully started on the path to consistent success as they enter the showcase portion of the season.
A veritable MASH unit from the grueling conference schedule, the U18s limped into Phoenix with the toughest overall schedule for the club and the most adversity to overcome. Despite the odds against them, the team proved their mettle and played 3 fantastic games where the difference between victory and defeat was razor thin. Against Northwest Conference 1st place team MVLA (CA) and national team star Tegan McGrady, the game was deadlocked in the 91st minute before MVLA finished a rebound from a deep throw-in to claim the narrow victory. Jordyn Bloomer was fantastic in goal throughout the game, with regular centerback Chloe Knudtson limited to 15 minutes from food sickness. Katie Golabowski stepped in admirably to marshal the backline with Bri Jaeger, and Kristin Corral had a fantastic game as an outside back.
Day two found the U18s against 2013 ECNL National Champion Sereno (AZ), in a game that was fiercely contested. The score was deadlocked at 0-0 at halftime before two Sereno goals in a 5 minute span in the second half pushed the Arizona team to the victory. An ankle injury to Steph Fabry early in the second half blunted the FC WI Eclipse attack, and ended her participation in the event for precautionary reasons.
On the final day of the event, and in the final ECNL National Event game in their career, the U18s were matched up against TSC Hurricane (OK). While Knudtson was able to return for the full 90 minutes for this game, Kara Baugrud was a late scratch due to a nagging injury, forced more juggling of the backline. With a strong wind heavily impacting the game, the U18s fell behind 0-1 in the first half on a 25 yard laser from a TSC midfielder. A Jaeger header off a corner tied the game in the second half, but only 15 seconds later a mental lapse and some confusion in the backline allowed TSC to reclaim the lead. Alison Jacobson, Gaby Dorsey and Christina Feller were close on several more opportunities before a final late goal from the Oklahoma team put the game out of reach, ending it 1-3.
The U18 FC Wisconsin Eclipse team closed their career at ECNL National Events with 3 of their toughest national event games ever, a reflection of their markedly improved performance last season and the ECNL’s weighted scheduling process. The team showed why they were 2014 North American Cup qualifiers, with every game in Phoenix against a top 30 ECNL team, and every game closely fought to the final whistle. While the results barely slipped away, the feeling of accomplishment and pride in their performances and in their ECNL career could not be doused. The U18 team’s mentality and work rate over the past years and through the 2014-15 season has been exemplary, helping to create a culture of toughness and determination that resonates throughout the club. A 4-4-4 overall club record in Phoenix, one of the nation’s top showcase events, is a testament to the commitment and determination to succeed at all levels in the program, and again shows a very bright picture for the future of Wisconsin’s aspiring players.
The club has 5 more regular season Midwest Conference match-ups in the coming months, and 2 more ECNL National Events to play in 2014-15. Stay tuned for updates as FC Wisconsin Eclipse continues to build momentum and represent Wisconsin against the very best in the country.