ECNL games against the Michigan Hawks and Vardar, especially on the road, are always some of the toughest contests of the year. On October 26-27, FC Wisconsin Eclipse teams made their final Midwest Conference road trip of the season and showed that they are growing in confidence and quality and are a program that will have a voice in determining the Conference champions.
The FC Wisconsin Eclipse U16s continued their stingy defensive play over an undefeated weekend, handing the Michigan Hawks their first loss of the season on Saturday, and fighting first-place Vardar to a tough 0-0 tie Sunday. Adali Johnson scored the game-winner on Saturday, with a nice volley finish on a deflected shot in the 65th minute. The defense, led by strong play from Peyton Wesley, conceded very few chances throughout the game, and continued to show dominance in the air in both boxes and on set pieces. On Sunday, Mary DeWalt nearly found the game winner in the final minutes, just missing wide left after Emma Langer played an incisive penetrating pass behind the Vardar defense. Kate Del Fava and Mackenzie OConnell made sure the team would keep a clean sheet with gritty work in midfield in the second half.
The U17s fell to the Hawks in a tight 1-2 loss on Saturday. The team went behind in the 55th minute on a blast from the Hawks from just outside the box, which GK Jordyn Bloomer nearly pushed over the bar. The Hawks took a 2-0 lead late on a corner kick that FC Wisconsin Eclipse failed to clear, but Mariah Downs closed the gap minutes later with a chip over the Hawks goalkeeper. The final minutes featured lots of drama as Wisconsin pushed for the equalizer, which remained just out of their grasp. On Sunday, the 17s started slowly, conceding the first goal in the first minute of the game. The team immediately righted itself and dominated play for extended periods of the game before conceding again in the 85th minute, ending their chances of a come-back.
The U15 team had a tough weekend, traveling to Michigan missing both center midfielders, a centerback, and the team's only goalkeeper due to recent injuries. With the upcoming weekend off, they will look to heal and regroup for the final November conference push with home games against Sockers FC and Minnesota Thunder. Due to an ECNL scheduling quirk, the U18s played Vardar in both games, falling 0-4 on Saturday and 1-4 on Sunday, with the lone goal from Caroline Fink.
"This weekend had some huge positives for the club," said coach Andrew Lee. "One of the brightest spots continues to be the hard work and determination of the U16s, who are really representing the values of the club with their work-rate, tenacity, and toughness. They are a tough match for anyone right now, and a pleasure to watch."
"The U17 team has closed the gap against everyone in the conference," said Director Christian Lavers. "While they ultimately dropped two games this weekend, they were not far away from a pair of ties - which would not have been unfair. That is huge progress for a team that is unrecognizable to what it was 2 years ago. The leadership of Steph Fabry, Chloe Knudtson, Brianna Jaeger and Jordyn Bloomer has been a huge part of that growth, and the play of Gaby Dorsey in midfield has also been a big reason for their performances. Conceding on set pieces in both games is definitely out of character for that group, and we will remedy that over the coming weeks."
There are two things that have stood out over the past month in the FC Wisconsin Eclipse program. First, the players have started to show, that on any given day, FC Wisconsin Eclipse teams can take points from anyone in the confernece. Second, the teams are now starting to win a lot of the intangible battles - the contests of will, toughness and determination that so often decide individual battles and tough games.
FC Wisconsin Eclipse has the first weekend of November off for some much needed rest and recuperation, before resuming the final stage of conference play on November 9th with home games against Minnesota Thunder Academy. "The players deserve some rest," said Lee. "They have worked incredibly hard, and now we take a breath before the final conference push."