NASA 12 Elite II advances to US Youth Soccer National Championships
EDMOND, Okla. (June 25, 2013) — The first US Youth Soccer Region III Champion booked its ticket to the US Youth Soccer National Championships on Tuesday, as NASA 12 Elite II (GA) claimed the Under-19 Girls title at the ESC Complex in Edmond, Okla.
NASA and fellow finalist TBU Premier Girls 93 (FL) played to a 1-1 tie on the tournament’s first day, and once again 90 minutes wasn’t enough to separate the two sides on Tuesday. After overtime finished with the teams deadlocked at 1, NASA goalkeeper Alyse Scott made a trio of saves to give her team its second Region III Championship title in three years.
While many players at the Under-19 level are already in college, NASA coach Dave Smith said his players put high value on coming back and taking one more shot at winning a US Youth Soccer National Championship.
"They’re the ones that came to me because they’re all off in college now," Smith said. "They said, ‘We want to get together. We want to make one more run at this.’ Of course, I love that. That’s why we came back to play U-19s. They wanted another chance at the national championship."
It looked like NASA was on its way to Overland Park, Kan., site of the 2013 US Youth Soccer National Championships, when it held a one-goal lead for most of the game after Cara Smith found the back of the net in the 4th minute. However, in the 79th minute Margaret Cassells-Hamby sent a ball in from the right wing that carried into the upper-left corner of the goal to equalize the score.
NASA had a few near-misses in the final 10 minutes of regulation, including a well-taken free kick that struck the crossbar. It wasn't able to come up with a winner, so the game went to overtime.
Neither team could break through during the overtime periods, so the players took to the penalty spot for a shootout. After each team converted its first attempt, Scott made three diving saves to deny TBU and give her team the victory.
Scott said that of NASA’s six trips to the Region III Championships, they’ve gone to penalty kick shootouts four times. That experience, along with some of her own training, prepared her well for Tuesday’s contest.
"I know how to go about reading the individuals," said Scott, who is a goalkeeper for Auburn University. "I don’t just guess. I look at their hips. I see if they’re going to open up. I look at their eyes. I’ve had a lot of training with it."
The highly competitive and tight games between NASA and TBU may be the product of what Dave Smith estimated to be two dozen meetings through the years. Smith made sure to congratulate the TBU players at the awards ceremony, noting that he recognizes just about every name and face on the opposing squad after all the matchups.
The NASA coach said a final against TBU was a fitting way to end his squad’s Region III history.
". It was good that it finished up with a battle against Tampa United because they’re a very strong team," Smith said. "They’re one of the top teams in Florida, and we would constantly face them at regionals and some of the big-time tournaments."
With the Region III Championship medals now around their necks, NASA can look forward to competing July 22-28 at the US Youth Soccer National Championships.
It will be the conclusion for the squad, which has been together for the most part since the players’ Under-13 years. With that longevity, the team has bonded together, which is why Scott knew she wasn’t alone while standing on the goal line during the championship-deciding shootout.
"Knowing that we’re going into PKs is always nerve-wracking," she said. "But knowing my team is proud of me and they have my back no matter what, it just makes it easier."