Cleveland United White (OH-N) secured their spot atop of standings, and defeated PDA Ginga (NJ) 2-1 to move on to the Under-17 Girls US Youth Soccer National Championship final.Cleveland United led their pool with six points before the final preliminary match, but needed at least a tie to move forward, as PDA Ginga was right on their heels in standings with four points.
"I’m absolutely elated with how they’ve done," said head coach Mark Raduka. "They’ve taken the steps of putting us where we want to be to achieve the ultimate goal of being a National champion. Not everyone can do that… only two on Sunday."
From the start though, PDA proved that they were going to give Cleveland a challenge, and in the 33rd minute PDA got the first lead in a corner kick, when Drew Topor headed it into the net.
"This was a great test for us," said Raduka. "It was just finding a way to dig in and fight when things weren’t going our way.
"This is the third game in a row here at the National Championships tournament that we’ve been down a goal to start, and we’ve come up every single game to get ourselves a result. It just shows that perseverance - that no matter what the obstacles are, they’re going to find a way to get back in."
Only ten minutes later, Cleveland made a comeback when prolific goal scorer Kelly Novac got an inside pass from outside forward Maddie Kresevic, and slipped it past the keeper’s reach to tie the match before halftime.
In the second half with just six minutes left to go, Kelly Novac stepped up again, this time with the assist. Novac passed the ball from the midfield to Sydney Ulinsky, who got a breakway and gave Cleveland the game winner.
"We knew that this was our year. We all felt it," said Ulinsky. "We knew that this was our elimination game and we brought it. Now we’re ready for the championship. Every day all day, all we do is think about soccer. This is our life. This is what we wanted to do and just to be here is awesome, we couldn’t be happier."
Cleveland United next faces a familiar foe at Sunday’s championship final – 2013 National League opponent Match Fit Beat (NJ) – who they defeated in standings by goal differential.
"It’s awesome to see that two National League teams from the same division are here playing in the finals," said Raduka. "In the last 16 months we’ve played them twice and tied them both times at very good contests.
"I don’t expect it to be a very high scoring game. I expect it to be very defensive and tactical. I think it’s going to be a heck of a match."