The opening round of the U15-U18 FC Wisconsin Girls Champions League kicked off on Tuesday, February 12 with two very different, but very entertaining games. The night began with a cagey, defensive encounter, followed by an all-out goal-fest in the later game.
Game One: Team Aspire 4 – Team Develop 2
In a competitive, high energy game, Team Aspire came away with a hard-fought victory off the back of goals from Lilliah Blum (2), Hailey Rothwell, and Ava Stelter. The game was a largely defensive affair with neither team able to sustain much possession in the early stages. Overall, Nicole Norfolk did a great job leading Aspire’s defensive effort along with Alyssa Cornell and Maya Alberts, but it was Develop who struck first.
Annika Seem scored her first of two goals early in the first period, neatly sidestepping two challenges and firing into the bottom corner following some good work by Sofia Englund. Lilliah Blum equalized for Aspire shortly after, who took the lead about 5 minutes later thanks to a great solo effort from Hailey Rothwell.
With the games played over three 20 minute periods, the second period proved uneventful with the exception of Seem’s second goal to level the score. As the game moved into the final 20 minutes with the score level, both teams sensed victory. Maggie Starker created a number of chances for Develop, but goalkeeper Daisy Johnson was up for every challenge for Aspire.
In the end it was Aspire’s night, with Blum eventually escaping the shackles of Maria Nordness before rounding the keeper to make the score 3-2. Ava Stelter sealed the victory with the best goal of the night, spinning away from her marker to curl a great finish into the top corner with a few minutes left.
Game Two: Team Achieve 11 – Team Unshakable 9
If game one didn’t have enough goals for the spectators, game two certainly did. In fact, it took less than a minute for Aryssa Mahrt to score her first of 6 goals on the night, outpacing her marker to fire low into the corner. You would be mistaken to think it could be the start of a long night for Team Unshakable, because Rachel Dallet had other ideas, responding with 2 quick-fire goals of her own to take the lead.
Both teams’ goalkeepers were kept busy and frustrated throughout the night. Cora Anderson made a great one-handed save to deny Dallet an early hat trick, while Lexi Prusow came off her line well to stop Lucia England, who looked to be forming an exciting partnership with Mahrt. Unshakable extended their lead with goals from Emma Tabor and a long range strike from Anna Franceschi, but this only sparked Mahrt again, who scored almost immediately from the kick-off. Lucia Englund added a well deserved goal, followed by two more from Mahrt to end the second period.
Both teams showed signs of fatigue entering the final 20 minutes, but this only created more space, and opportunities. Nine goals were scored in the final stanza, and the lead changed hands several times before Achieve finally sealed the win. It was two of the younger players who rose to the occasion, as Kaeley Kroenke scored the winning goal - her second of the night – by attacking a loose ball in the box and forcing it over the line. Lucia Englund capped an impressive performance by assisting on Kroenke’s goal and then scoring herself after some intricate build up play.
It was easy to single out the attacking players in such a high scoring game, but Liesel Odden and Izzy Arnold were both solid in midfield for Team Achieve. For Unshakable, Jadyn Rupnow, Jordyn Jeffers, and Fiona Skwierawski defended with grit and toughness throughout the game.
In both games, the initiative and leadership shown by the players was fantastic, as well as their insight into tactical problems that were presented and potential solutions. The FC Wisconsin Champions League puts the players into the role of coach and manager, promoting independent thinking and decision-making for all players.
It was a fantastic first week of the 2019 Champions League, and we look forward to more great action in week 2. For standings and more on the 2019 Champions League, click here.