The best in the East gathered in Lancaster, Pa. for the 2011 US Youth Soccer Region I Championships. Five regional champions took the field at Classics Park, Hempfield High School and East Petersburg Elementary, but just two made it the final day of play.
New Jersey club PDA sent seven teams into the finals, six girls and one boys, with four girls sides claiming titles. Here's a look back to the regional finals…
A battle of in-state rivals for the Under-14 Girls, Match Fit Chelsea Colchesters (NJ) edged PDA Clash (NJ) 1-0 on a dramatic last second goal. Match Fit fell in last year's championship game and looked to be headed to overtime this year, but Lucia Surraco got on the end of a loose ball in the box with time expiring and made the most of the opportunity as the referee blew the final whistle on the ensuing kickoff.
Defending Region I champion SAC United Premier (MD) knocked off PDA Slammers (NJ) in last year's semifinals, but PDA returned the favor in the Under-15 Girls final this year with a 4-1 victory to move on to Nationals. PDA's Natasha Ntone Kouo scored two goals to take over as the top scorer of the competition, and Alexandra Weyrauch also netted twice in the win as Imani Dorsey got on the board for SAC. Both teams will make the trip out west as SAC were the National League champions.
It was a rough week for defending champions, but Under-16 Girls Scorpions Elite (MA) showed their mettle for the second straight year as they were the only repeat champions after defeating Bethesda Freedom 94/95 (MD) 1-0. An early goal in the 5th minute from Samantha Alves not only set the tone for Scorpions, but held up as the game winner as they head back to Nationals hoping to capture the title after falling in the championship match in 2010.
National League participant FC Pennsylvania Strikers (E-PA) were disappointed in their 1-goal win in the opening game, and you could see why as they rolled to the championship with a 4-0 victory over PDA Charge (NJ) in the Under-17 Girls final. Daija Griffin moved into a tie for the scoring lead with her 21st minute strike and Cassandra Pecht added two in the 38th and 52nd. Taylor Trusky sealed the win with a fourth in the 73rd.
FC Stars of Massachusetts edged defending champion Syosset Sting 92 Elite (NY-E) for a spot in the Under-18 Girls semis and they took over as regional champs after beating Bethesda SC Dragons (MD) 2-1 in the final. Hayley Brock put Stars in the lead in the opening minute but Bethesda leveled just seven minutes later. Emily Manoogian put Stars back in front in the 42nd and that proved to be the difference to carry Stars to the title.
Daphne Corboz led the Under-19 Girls PDA Tsunami (NJ) to the Region I Championship with two goals in a 2-0 win over Vista Shockwave (VA). Goals in the 22nd and 54th were the difference in the game and Tsunami capped off PDA's four regional titles for the club.
The Under-14 Boys final between Eastern New York sides Smithtown Arsenal and Manhattan SC Paris Saint-Germain 96 was a scoreless affair until overtime when Smithtown's Gideon Metrikin sprung for two goals in three minutes. Manhattan responded with a goal seven minutes later from Zach Progrob, but Smithtown netted three minutes after that as the game exploded to life and Smithtown prevailed 3-1.
National League sides SCFC Gauchos (NJ) and OBGC Rangers (MD) had demonstrated some of the most entertaining soccer in the tournament and the final was no different as the Gauchos triumphed 4-3. Jose Meza put SDFC up in just the 4th minute and Rangers' Jeremy Ebobisse and Babatunji Osifeso struck four minutes apart in the first half before Ebobisse made it 3-1 Rangers in the second. With time winding down, Michael Sorin grabbed one back for SDFC in the 64th and Carter Spyrka sent it to overtime with a last minute goal. In the added period, Gauchos put together an excellent passing sequence out of midfield that led to Meza's second strike from the left side of the box to lead the Gauchos to the National Championships.
After being eliminated in the 2010 regional semifinals by the eventual national champions, Baltimore Bays Chelsea (MD), it's Beadling's turn for a shot at a national crown as they claimed the Under-16 Boys Region I title with a 1-0 victory over PDA Harkes (NJ). Beadling looked like they had a goal in them throughout the match, but it was a Ryan Viella strike with 15 minutes left that made the difference and sends the western Pennsylvania side to Phoenix.
Penn Fusion Celtic (E-PA) showed some great skill and teamwork throughout the week, but SAC United Premier (MD) showed their determination as well as SAC fought back from an early 2-0 Penn Fusion lead on a pair of Daniel Matthews' goals to force extra time. Thomas Krug netted in the 33rd for SAC and Theodore Gula leveled in the 75th, but Penn Fusion continued to put pressure on the SAC defense and it paid off with a Benjamin Kennel goal in double overtime as Fusion claimed the Under-17 Boys title.
YMS Thunder (E-PA) claimed the Under-18 Boys regional crown with a 2-1 win over FC Stars of Massachusetts. FC Stars took the lead with 22 minutes left to play on a penalty kick from Rei Mitsuyama. But YMS rallied for two goals on the back of Kyle MacDonald in the 75th and 83rd to take the championship away from FC Stars and book their trip to Phoenix.
Baltimore Bays Chelsea (MD) are no strangers to the National Championships as the Bays have won eight national titles in the last eight years. The Bays will have a chance to add to that total as the Under-19 Boys defeated Lower Merion Velez (E-PA) 1-0. The 14th minute goal from Michael Raley held up as the winner for the Bays.
In addition to the 12 regional representatives named on finals day in Pennsylvania, Region I will send two National League teams, U15G finalist SAC United Premier (MD) and Match Fit Chelsea Beat from Maryland and New Jersey, for a total of 14 teams at the National Championships in Phoenix.
Region I claimed just one national title in 2010. What will hold for the best of the East in the desert heat of 2011?