National 02 Black (MI) defeated Legends FC 02 Academy (CA-S), 2-1, in overtime to earn a spot in the 15U Girls National Championship final. In a tale of two halves, Nationals started off as the aggressors and had a shot tipped onto the crossbar in the opening minutes by Legend’s Hannah Arneson.
Legends’s best chance in the half came on a low shot that was saved by a diving Gabriela Green. After constant pressure, Nationals finally opened the scoring just before halftime. Nationals got on a break and found an inlet pass to the top of the box. The holdup play gave Jessica Kjoe time to make a back post run and as she received the ball she finished her shot beyond the keeper.
Nationals had a chance to increase their lead just before the break, but had its chance to straight into the hands of Arneson from close range.
Legends picked up the intensity in the second half and equalized early. A lofted ball floated into the box landed into a mix of player bouncing off a Nationals Union player into the net for an own goal. Legends kept on the pressure looking for the lead and had a great long shot parried and saved by Green.
With neither side able to break the deadlock, the semifinal match headed to overtime. Nationals got ahead early thanks to Madaline Novak. A crossed ball bounced around in the box and popped out to Novak who made no mistake finishing her chance back post. Legends pressed for a chance and late in the second overtime came inches away from equalizing but saw its deep free kick deflect onto the post and out.
Union were able to hold off Legends until the final whistle and earned its spot into the 17U Girls National Championships final.
As they look to the finals and look back on its game today, Nationals Union knows that once you reach the knock out stage, the competition only continues to get better.
“Once you get to this stage every team is quality, and when you get to the semifinals the level rises up another notch,” said National Union assistant coach Gronthik Chatterjee. “Every team is going to be a good team and it comes to maximizing particular moments, and for us, we happened to be on the right side of that today.”
Nationals Union will now face CUP 02 Gold (OH-S) in the 15U Girls National Championships final where a few Nationals Union players will get a chance to earn their second title.
“Obviously winning the National Championship is the pinnacle and there’s nothing that beats it,” continued Chatterjee. “You work not just for one year, but multiple years as a club and you have athletes that have been working for just one crack at this, and in our case, some fortunate enough to be playing for a second. To be here is such a special moment, and I think the girls know that and respect this moment.”