The first two matches for 13U Girls Albion SC Academy Whittaker (CA-S) have included the expected tensions that come with playing on the national stage for the first time.
They’ve also featured two victories for the Cal South side.
Albion continued its strong start to the week with a 1-0 victory against Michigan Jaguars (MI) to move to six points in the standings and secure a spot in Friday’s championship final at the 2019 US Youth Soccer National Championships, presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“They’re making lifelong memories here. This is something they’ll never forget,” Albion coach Michael Whittaker said. “The environment is massive. It was nervy yesterday for them in their first game in this environment. It’s been so great to see them come together.”
After some end-to-end action to begin the game, Albion began to take firm control of possession and generated pressure in the attacking half.
The Cal South side created an early reward for its attacking prowess with a breakthrough goal in the 14th minute. Ashley Mekitarian positioned herself well at the top of the box to take a squared pass and place a first-time shot just under the crossbar to give Albion the 1-0 lead.
The quick start in Wednesday’s match continued a strong start for Albion in the tournament, which the team anxiously awaited in the weeks prior to traveling to Overland Park, Kan.
“We were very excited and we still are,” Albion midfielder Ava Schall said. “During training, to be honest, we couldn’t stop about it. Being one of the few teams to get to come out here an experience this environment, it’s been really fun.”
Holding the narrow advantage, Albion looked like the most likely to score the game’s second goal, but it couldn’t add to its lead before the break. Michigan began to tilt the field in its favor in the second half, as it spent plenty of time in the attacking half looking for an equalizer.
Whittaker said his team’s discipline was the key to holding on to the one-goal lead for about an hour of play. Despite having long periods of possession near around the Albion penalty area, the Jaguars couldn’t manage to get a clean look at goal. Their best chance came from a corner kick, as Amalia Villarreal sent a contested header over the bar.
Villarreal created some chances throughout the match off the dribble and with penetrating passes, but the Albion defense was up to the task in keeping the Jaguars off the scoreboard and securing the clean sheet.
Team chemistry has played a key role for Albion, Whittaker said, as he noted many of the players have been together for more than five years. Now, with two wins and a spot in the 13U Girls Final secured, Albion has a shot to add a new high point to that journey.
“I think it would be a great conclusion, if you would say that, for how many years we’ve been together,” Schall said. “It would just be a cherry on top for all the hard work that we’ve put in.”