The FC WI U15 – U18/19 ECNL teams traveled to Phoenix November 9-11 to compete at the ECNL National Showcase at Reach 11. In front of hundreds of colleges, on immaculate fields, the players faced off against some of the top clubs in the country.
Overall, the teams competed really well, showing confidence and style in their play, and claiming 7 wins out of 12 games. Nearly 70 different colleges attended the U17 and U18/19 games alone!
In the final ECNL National Event of their careers, the U18s finished with two wins and a set of performances that showed that they can compete with any team in the country. After going through the Midwest Conference with only 2 losses in 9 games, the team’s great form continued in Arizona to put them at 6-3-3 overall in the ECNL.
The statement match of the weekend was against San Juan (CA) in the final game of the event. After going up 1-0 on a classic Emma Jaskaniec goal in the 25th minute, set up by fantastic team defending and an early penetrating ball from Jordie Rothwell, the team conceded the equalizer just before half on a set piece. Not to be deterred, the players found an even higher level in the second half and were rewarded with the winner through a Rothwell penalty in the 80th minute. The goal came after a string of close chances, including a shot against the bar from Maddie Tabor, a great save on a curler from Liz Murphy, and a host of other chances. All of the backs were tremendous throughout the game, led by centerbacks Nicole Norfolk and Peighton Steffen. Maria Nordness, Emma Tabor, and Eliza Holton were in tough match-ups in the wide spaces but didn’t flinch – winning the individual battles far more often than not. Rothwell and Amelia Crabtree didn’t shy away from tackles in midfield, and both initiated counters well to feed Jaskaniec, Sydney Schaaf, and Sophia Bliffert in attack. Amara Thompkins, Sophia Toscano, and Bella Dettlaff also put in great shifts in midfield that frustrated the San Juan team and constantly disrupted their attempts to build and switch play. In goal, Cora Anderson and Gina Muzi helped organize the defense and were important in build out play.
The U18s defeated Real Colorado 3-1 on day 2, behind two second half goals from Jaskaniec after a 31st minute opener from Bliffert, avenging a 0-2 loss to a fantastic Colorado Rapids team on day 1.
The U17s finished 3-0 with wins over D’Feeters (TX), Phoenix Rising, and Florida Elite, bringing their overall record in the league to 6-6. Game 1 was a good match-up against Texas club D’Feeters, and the 17s started strong and didn’t look back. Abi Santana scored a great headed goal from a Caitlyn Schilling serve in the 18th minute, after a build-up that started with goalkeeper Lexi Prusow. Jadyn Rupnow tacked on another minutes later on a corner kick. Maya Alberts and Katrina Patscot were fantastic at centerback, sniffing out attacks early and shutting down the athletic three-front from Dallas.
Game 2 was a dominant performance against Phoenix Rising (formerly Scottsdale Blackhawks) from start to finish. A bright start was rewarded by a Rachel Dallet corner kick goal in the 9th minute, but that was all the scoring for a while. With overwhelming possession the U17s created a dozen chances over the rest of the game but were stymied by fantastic goalkeeping from the Arizona club. It wasn’t until another Dallet corner kick goal in the 84th minute that the game was done. Rupnow, Annika Seem, Tyler Wilson, and Liesel Odden platooned in the middle of midfield, consistently able to break lines and switch fields to find open spaces. Hailey Rothwell and Ani Quade were very effective targets, and wide players Schilling, Santana, Maggie Starker, Jordyn Jeffers, and Liz Davis were up and down the flanks in attack from both outside back and outside midfield.
Game 3 saw two fatigued teams face off, with the U17s matched up against a physically dominant Florida Elite club. Despite the power and height disadvantage across most positions, another Dallet corner kick goal proved to be a difference in a 1-0 win. Hailey Rothwell and Jadyn Rupnow were both denied more goals by great saves from the Florida keeper, and the backline of Alberts, Patscot, Davis, and Jeffers were rock solid.
The U16s showed huge improvement in their play and capabilities in every game but dropped tough 1-3 results to both Alabama FC and Real Colorado, and the final against Del Mar Carmel Vallye, in scorelines that did not reflect the quality of play. The group’s significantly improved ability to play from the back and get into midfield was evident throughout the weekend, but could not be translated into enough chances – a situation sure to be improved over the coming months. Alyssa Cornell and Fiona Skwierawski were solid at center back, with Abby Hall, Jamie Puppe, and Sam Danczyk at outside back. The trio of Greta Czachor, Ahnna Faust and Anna Francheski showed a growing ability to combine and connect from side to side in midfield. Emily Fix, Lindsey Asmussen, Ava Bryan, and Lauren Busalacchi are showing more confidence in wide spaces, and Kailey Walters and Ava Stelter are finding better spots to create attacks from. Sydney Kallinger continues to grow in goal, with several saves that stood out in each game.
The U15s earned two wins, in a 3-2 match against Del Mar Carmel Valley (CA) and a 3-0 win over Davis (CA). Lilliah Blum lit up the scoreboard with the first 2 goals against Del Mar, (Ashley Wolfe scored a great winner), and all 3 against Davis, but it was a broad supporting cast that created the chances with good build-up play. Lucia Englund and Dri Alberts have begun to show great promise at centerback, and goalkeeper Daisy Johnson is beginning to look like she has been in the league far more than a few months. Marisa Grzesiak and Ashley Jones were dynamic getting forward from outside back, especially against Davis. Izzy Arnold is growing in presence in midfield, with Taylor Holbrook, Kate Brown, and Caitlin Dominski also showing new abilities to impact the game. Wide players Sofia Englund, Calla Laabs, Rebecca Cheever, Kaeley Kroenke, and Claire Lesjnak found good moments to penetrate, and an improved defensive tenacity – required to be successful in any ECNL match.
The final game was a tough 0-2 loss to Phoenix Rising, and was a bit flattering to the winners after several good chances for the U15s couldn’t quite find the back of the net.
Thoughts from the Staff
Nearly 70 different colleges attended the U17 and U18/19 games alone, including: Air Force, Colorado State, Houston, Drake, Valparaiso, University of the Pacific, Notre Dame, DePaul, San Diego, Iowa State, Navy, University of Portland, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Idaho, Wyoming, Dayton, Gonzaga, Oklahoma State, St. Mary's Minnesota, Central Arkansas, Purdue, Cornell, South Dakota, UAB, Hawaii, Kentucky, Texas Christian, Cal State Bakersfield, New Mexico, Minot State, Cal Tech, Davidson, DePauw, Earlham, George Washington, Gonzaga, Harvard, Miami of Ohio, University of Miami, Missouri Southern, Wisconsin, and more!