U15G Jacksonville withstands Eastside pressure, nets overtime winner
Jacksonville FC 98/99 Elite (FL) absorbed repeated jabs from defending National Champion Eastside FC 98 Red (WA) before providing a the biggest punch of Saturday’s Under-15 Girls semifinal.
After holding the Washington side off the scoreboard in regulation and overtime, Jacksonville scored a 110th-minute goal to edge Eastside, 1-0, and advance to the final at the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships, presented by the National Guard.
With the game moments from a penalty kick shootout, Jacksonville’s Katie Ralys crossed a ball into the box and Leah Ferlin directed a header just under the crossbar for the goal that sends the Florida side to Sunday’s championship final.
“I’m exhilarated. That was an amazing finish, beating the defending National Champions,” Jacksonville coach Mike Walker said. “Getting through when we didn’t expect to be here — it was a last-minute deal. Words can’t explain how excited we are as a group. We just kept fighting, and we didn’t give up until the end.”
Jacksonville needed to withstand a consistent attack from Eastside in order to stay level and send the game to overtime. The defending champions came out strong and came close to breaking through when they hit the crossbar in the 11th minute.
U.S. National Team prospect Jojo Harber made several dangerous runs into the box for Eastside in the second half, but the Jacksonville back line prevented her from getting a quality look at goal.
“Our keeper, Mandy McGlynn, has kept us in the game all week,” Walker said. “Our defense had the least amount of goals scored on us. Defensively, we liked our chances. To be able to respond off their pressure and keep our heads, focus and composure to find that final goal was amazing.”
Jacksonville dodged another close call for Eastside when a header from a corner kick rang off the crossbar late in the second half.
The Florida side made sure to take advantage of its fortune and created some chances of its own to begin overtime. Eastside keeper Molly Monroe came off her line to stop a Jacksonville breakaway attempt before Ferlin headed in the winner minutes later.
Ferlin said it felt great to get the winning goal and credited the team’s fitness with helping them push through the overtime period. The Jacksonville coach agreed that the team is in strong shape and said they now have confidence heading to the final after defeating the defending champions.
“We found out two days before the tournament that were coming to this thing,” Walker said. “To make it to the finals knowing that we actually didn’t know we were going to be here is a task in itself. We are exciting and we’re going to go for the win now. The competition here is amazing. All of the games have been one or two-goal games. It just shows the toughness and the competitiveness of this tournament and the excitement of how these games can be because of how equal everyone actually is in the games.”