Special to The Sun
Celebrations and emotions were on display Wednesday at the Service-Blake Soccer Complex as four teams claimed 2013 US Youth Soccer Region III (south) Championships, presented by the National Guard. By winning the title, the four squads have secured a spot in the prestigious US Youth Soccer National Championships July 22-28 in Overland Park, Kan.
In a back-and-forth Under-18 girls final, Oklahoma FC 96 and Lonestars 95 Red (S. Texas) needed overtime to decide who would take the title and move on to nationals.
OFC took a two-goal lead after Lexi Carroll and Rachel Thun each registered first-half goals. Lonestars responded just after halftime when Elizabeth Fish scored in the 47th minute. With 10 minutes to go, Lonestars’ Alyssa Conde got free on the left side of the penalty area and beat the keeper to tie the game.
OFC nearly grabbed a winner in regulation, but it had a shot ring off the post and the game went to overtime. Just two minutes into the extra period, OFC’s Karla Cabello jumped on a loose ball in the box and scored what would be the game-winner, as hometown side OFC took the Under-18 girls championship.
OFC 96, which lost in the Region III Under-16 girls final last year in a penalty shootout, never gave up on the goal of becoming a regional champion, head coach Jimmy Hampton said.
“It’s what they focused on all year. We’ve had some ups and downs, but I think we persevered,” Hampton said. “We even made it hard today. It’s hard when we let them equalize, 2-2, and had to go to overtime. But we never quit. They never gave up.”
The Under-13 boys final between United FA 00 Elite (Ga.) and Andromeda 00B Red (N. Texas) was a rematch of a Day one game in which United earned a thrilling 5-3 win. The Georgia state champions got off to a quick start when Carlos Reyes scored twice in the opening five minutes to give his side a 2-0 lead. Both defenses would clamp down from that point and the score remained unchanged as United won, 2-0, to claim the Under-13 boys title and the right to head to Overland Park for the National Championships.
Liverpool 00 Elite (N. Texas) was a 3-2 winner over Oklahoma FC 00 in a tightly-contested Under-13 girls final. Liverpool scored in the 15th minute on a Lauren Tovy strike, but OFC’s Mackenzie Belyeu came right back two minutes later and tied the game at 1.
Sydney Simmons scored in the 52nd minute to help Liverpool regain the lead, but once again OFC answered when Brianna Amos scored in the 60th minute. With just a few minutes left, Liverpool’s Catiana Lychywek made a great run with the ball from midfield, went around the keeper and scored the game-winner to give her team the win and Region III Under-13 Girls Championship.
Underdog Plantation Copa (Fla.) looked to claim the Under-19 boys title against Vestavia Steamers 94 Black (Ala.), which beat Plantation 5-2 earlier in the tournament. The Steamers looked like they would take control once again when Jack Hopkins converted a penalty kick in the 38th minute by beating the keeper high and to the left. However, Plantation came right back two minutes later and tied the game thanks to a Gonzalo Gelso goal. In the 75th minute, Plantation got a fortuitous bounce and Jeffrey Michaud knocked the ball into an open net to give the Florida side the title. Plantation will now move on to the US Youth Soccer National Championships, where it will play for the storied James P. McGuire Cup.
Under-16 girls 97 Louisiana Fire Navy took down two-time defending champion Sting 97 (N. Texas), 2-1, to earn its place in todday’s final. The Fire opened the scoring in the 29th minute when Samantha Jordan found the back of the net. Sting equalized in the 52nd minute on a well-executed corner kick that Haley Jordan headed home. The Fire responded quickly, as Eleanor Pratt scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal in the 59th minute — putting her team in the final, where it will face 97 FC Alliance Black (Tenn.).
GSA Phoenix 97 Red (Ga.) continued its fine play against Cajun Soccer Club Fury 97 (La.) in the Under-16 boys semifinals. GSA showed a potent attack from the first whistle and went up 1-0 when Nash Wagnon found the back of the net in the 2nd minute. GSA continued to press the Fury defense, and Joseph Efford recorded an insurance goal in the 60th minute. The GSA defense, which has allowed just one goal all tournament long, held strong again as the Georgia side won 2-0 to advance to the Under-16 boys final. After falling in last year’s title bout, GSA will look to claim the Region III title Thursday against fellow Georgia squad NASA B15 Elite.
Wednesday featured a rematch of a 2012 final, as defending champion Tennessee SC 16 took on Liverpool 98 Elite (N. Texas) in an Under-15 girls semifinal. Tennessee got off to a good start in the opening half, with goals by Karlie Paschall and Abbie Kerr. That lead extended shortly after half when Meredith Slessman added a third goal. Paschall capped the scoring in stoppage time, as Tennessee’s attack proved too much for Liverpool’s talented defense — which hadn’t allowed a goal prior to Wednesday — in a 4-0 win. Tennessee will look to defend its title in Thursday’s final against Tampa Bay United 97 Premier (Fla.).
West Pines Strikers (Fla.) is heading to the Under-17 boys final after defeating 95 NCA Alliance (N.C.), 3-1, in Wednesday’s semifinal matchup. Neicolance Regent opened the scoring in the 21st minute for West Pines, but NCA countered in the 46th minute with a goal from Moises Gonzalez. NCA went a man down but played tough before an own goal put West Pines ahead. Regent added a second goal in the 88th minute when he collected the ball at the top of the box and calmly moved around a defender before striking it into the right corner. The 3-1 win set up West Pines to meet TUSA Gold (N.C.) in the final, after TUSA needed a penalty kick shootout to defeat 96 Lobos Rush Blue (Tenn.).
The Under-14 through Under-17 finals, along with the Under-18 boys final, are now set as 18 teams have played their way into the final matches for the US Youth Soccer Region III Championships. Two defending US Youth Soccer Region III Champions — Under-15 girls Tennessee SC 16 and Under-15 boys Sunrise Elite 97/98 (Fla.) — have the opportunity to win back-to-back titles on Thursday.
Regional winners of the Under-13 through Under-19 age groups earn a berth to the 2013 US Youth Soccer National Championships, which will be played July 22-28 at Overland Park Soccer Complex in Overland Park, Kan.
The US Youth Soccer National Championships will consist of US Youth Soccer Regional Champions in the Under-13 through Under-19 boys and girls age groups, as well as the US Youth Soccer National League qualifiers in the Under-15 through Under-18 boys and girls age groups to complete the field of 88 teams.