Despite entering Thursday in first place in 15U Girls Group B, SC Waukesha 04 Blue (WI) had work to do in order to guarantee itself a spot in the semifinals.
The Wisconsin side clocked in early against familiar foe Sporting St. Louis Red Devils 2004 (MO), as SC Waukesha jumped in front in the fourth minute en route to a 3-0 victory that helped it top its group at the 2019 US Youth Soccer National Championships, presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
With all of the Group B teams in contention for semifinal berths entering the final day of the group stage, SC Waukesha knew it couldn’t afford a repeat of its first two games — when it fell behind by two goals within the opening 15 minutes.
“One of our goals today was to score first and score early,” SC Waukesha coach Giuliano Oliviero said. “To get that early goal really set the tone.”
The opening strike came courtesy of a free kick following a foul on the edge of the penalty area. Elena Zuchowski placed a powerful right-footed shot around the wall and into the left side netting to give SC Waukesha the early lead it craved.
The Wisconsin side built on that lead in the 21st minute, as Zoe Hevey spun around a defender inside the Sporting penalty area and worked her way to the end line. From there, she played a pass with pace along the turf that Kayla Budish touched inside the left post to put SC Waukesha up, 2-0.
Sporting St. Louis looked threatening for several spans throughout the game — creating some frantic moments for SC Waukesha inside its defensive half. However, Oliviero said his side remained focused for the full 80 minutes and credited all lines of the squad, along with goalkeeper Lilly Hanke, for shutting down a “dangerous” Sporting St. Louis team.
The history between the two sides has seen St. Louis hold the upper hand — including a 1-0 victory in June’s Midwest Regional Championship final — but the Wisconsin side knew Thursday provided a new opportunity.
“It feels surreal. They took away our Regional Championship, so we weren’t about to let them take away our chance at a National Championship,” SC Waukesha captain Savannah Sievert said. “We’ve played them so many times and have never got the chance to beat them, so it felt great.”
Budish added an insurance goal in the 66th minute when her quick right-footed shot slipped past the keeper to push the SC Waukesha advantage to 3-0, which would be the final score.
The win allowed the Wisconsin side to finish in first place in Group B, one point above fellow Thursday winner FC Revolution Dynamo (PA-E). Both sides will move on to Saturday’s semifinals, which Oliviero described as a “remarkable” feat in his team’s first trip to the National Championships.
“To be one of the teams remaining and playing this weekend, words can’t describe it,” Oliviero said. “I’m so happy for the team and the families — all the sacrifices and efforts they’ve put in over the season.
“Here we are in the final four. It’s anybody’s championship at this point.”