The 2019 winter Players' Champions League finished with a bang on March 12, with both a Championship Game and a 3rd Place Game that did not disappoint in action, back-and-forth scoring, and quality. In only its second year, the PCL has proven to be incredible fun for the players, a source of competitive pride, and a fantastic development opportunity for FC Wisconsin players.
3rd Place Game: Unshakable 11 – Achieve 8
The 3rd Place game was full of scoring chances and it was clear that winning was important to everyone on the field as teams Achieve and Unshakable went back and forth with goals for 60 minutes. With both teams coming out with high intensity and pressure, the opening minutes hinted at how exhilarating this game would be.
Team Unshakable created two dangerous opportunities in the first two minutes, but it was team Achieve who was first on the scoreboard four minutes in when Izzy Arnold placed a shot perfectly far post at distance.
Unshakable roared back creating 2 more great chances but were stymied by goalkeeper Cora Anderson. Not long after, Achieve added another off of a counter attack goal by Aryssa Mahrt who buried her shot just beneath the crossbar to claim a 2-0 lead.
An Ashley Wolfe and Anna Francheski combination looked as it was going to put team Unshakable on the board but Francheski’s shot soared just wide. The frustrations in front of net were not going to make Team Unshakable give up though, and some sustained high pressure forced a defensive mistake by team Achieve for an Ashley Wolfe tap in to make it 1-2 and game on.
Unshakable looked to add to their lead when Rachel Dallet beat a defender 1v1 but the chance was saved by Achieve goalkeeper Sydney Kallinger. Still on the lookout for the tying goal, Unshakable found it when Claire Lesjnak put a pass across goal for Dallet to bury in one touch.
Going into the second period tied 2-2, Kailey Kroenke missed just wide on a great chance. After a long clearance behind Achieve’s defense, Dallet ran to goal and ripped her shot into the back of the net to put Unshakeable ahead for the first time. With speed and finesse on the dribble Mahrt responded immediately and scored through a Lucia Englund assist to tie the game again.
Mahrt put her team ahead almost immediately after tying the game. Spinning her mark, then taking on the covering defender herself, she finished low and hard past the Unshakable goalkeeper to put Achieve up 4-3. With some great combination play between Anika Quade, Dallet, and Francheski, Unshakable nearly equalized, but Francheski’s shot missed just wide again. More pressure and chances from team Unshakable looked promising, but it was Jayden Rupnow’s cut back to fake out her defender and far post shot that tied up the game again 4-4.
Achieve pulled ahead yet again as Lucia Englund used her skill to dribble through two Unshakable defenders to pass the ball into the bottom corner. Looking for more goals, a messy situation from a number of rebounds and shots in the Unshakable box gave Achieve more chances, but goalkeeper Lexi Prusow stayed sharp and eventually got ahold of the ball to keep her team in the game. Francheski, determined to get another goal before the end of the period, got ahold of a bouncing ball off the wall, took a quick touch, then lofted the ball into the upper 90 bringing the score 5-5.
With as exciting periods 1 and 2 were, period 3 was sure not to disappoint, as both teams refused to go home defeated. Team Unshakable pulled ahead by 3 (8-5) in the beginning of the period with more goals from Francheski, Dallet, and another Wolfe rebound. While most were thinking this game was Unshakable’s for the taking, Achieve refused to give up. With a pass from Koenke, Aryssa took on more defenders to score, followed shortly by a far post finish at a tough angle by Englund to bring them within a goal.
Team Unshakable responded to the resurgence with two more goals from Dallet and Kate Brown and continued to pull away. Kallinger made a great diving save and Achieve hit the post as the searched for momentum to get back into the game. Unfortunately, one more Achieve goal wasn’t enough as a determined Dallet beat a defender 1v1 to score and make sure Acheve was never coming back, and the third place finish went to team Unshakable winning 11-8.
Even though there were goals galore, Jordan Jeffers, Payton Steffen, Sydney Schaaf, and Fiona Skiwierawski for team Unshakable, and Eliza Holton, Lauren Davis and Kailey Walters for team Achieve, all had solid performances in their team’s back line.
Championship Game: Develop 8 – Aspire 6
The championship game brought team #1 seeded team Aspire vs. #2 seeded team Develop. The game might not have had as many goals as the third and fourth place game, but it was just as exciting in action and quality.
Team Aspire nearly opened their account in the opening minute with a chance from Liz Murphy to Caitlin Dominski, but a great tackle by Maria Nordness snuffed it out. Team Develop had their first chance soon after when a shot by Sofia Englund looked like it was going in top corner but soared just high and wide of the goal.
After both teams settled into the game in a midfield battle, Lilliah Blum, off a pass from Liz, quickly spun her defender and calmly passed the ball into the far post for Develop to take the lead. Minutes later Sofia won the ball off a defender then nicely placed her shot top corner to tie the game 1-1.
Blum and her team responded quickly with a chance by Blum, Tyler Wilson hitting the post, and then another shot from Blum that forced a big save.
Annika Seem’s quick turn and powerful shot found the bottom corner put team Develop up 2-1. Team Aspire didn’t let them stay ahead for long though. Liz Murphy found Ava Stelter wide open in the box for a tap in to tie it up again. Marisa Grezsiak then found Blum who took her touch straight to goal and lofted the ball just beneath the crossbar.
Going into period two the goals kept coming for team Aspire who went up by 2. With the game potentially slippling away, Develop looked to come back with a chance by Maggie Starker who took an Aspire defender on 1v1 and looked to find a corner, but Quinlan Warren stepped off of her line to deny the breakaway. Warren came up big yet again not even a minute later, as she made a diving fingertip save on Annika’s shot to the low corner. After a missed clearance, Stelter took the opportunity and tapped the ball in right into team Develop’s goal, putting team Aspire up by 3.
Instead of crumbling after their mistake, team Develop stiffened their backbones. They closed the gap to 3-5 after Maria’ Nordness' shot from distance was dropped and Dri Alberts finished easily. Shortly after, a shot from Amelia Crabtree looked like it was rolling into the bottom corner but was denied by Warren.
Team Develop came out full of energy in the final period. Starker found a wide open T-Rose Ayuden who’s shot went straight to Warren’s hands. A defensive clearance unpressured by team Aspire was picked up by Maria who dribbled forward and put a shot on target. Warren made the save but couldn’t hold onto the ball as Annika followed it up and scored putting her team within a goal of team Aspire.
Team Aspire was not going to give up the game easily. Even under the high amount of pressure they continued to combine as a team. Tyler found Marisa wide who passed across the goal to find Lilliah wide open for a tap in but Kallinger denied the goal continuing to keep her team within reach of the championship.
Starker burried a shot second later to tie up the game at 5-5. In the clutch, Dri Alberts scored 2 goals with the third from Calla to bring some breathing room for Develop. Team Aspire looked to come back from the deficit with high pressure and a few more chances, but it was too late. Marissa’s shot from distance in the final second found the back of the net, but it wasn’t enough as team Develop took the 1st place finish winning 8-6. Abby Hall and Katrina Patscot stayed strong defensively for team Develop, and Alyssa Cornell, Emma Tabor, and Nicole Norfolk were solid defenders for team Aspire.
Congrats to team Develop for taking the first place finish, and congrats to all teams on a season full of goals and great play!
1st Place Team Develop: Maria Nordness, Katrina Patscot, Tyler Rose Ayudan, Jamie Puppe, Adrianna Alberts, Amelia Crabtree, Madeline Tabor, Liesel Odden, Annika Seem, Abby Hall, Calla Laabs, Ashley Jones, Maggie Starker, Hayley Johnson, Sofia Englund