Hawks 00 ECNL Playoffs Recap

Michigan Hawks ECNL 2000

The U17 Michigan Hawks ECNL team, coached by Derek Williford traveled to Rockford, Illinois for the 2017 ECNL playoffs, where they would play PDA of New Jersey, Concorde Fire of Georgia, and Bethesda Soccer Club of Maryland. Going into the weekend, the team knew the competition would be fierce and difficult, but were up to the challenge.

We opened up with PDA, nationally ranked fourth coming into the tournament. In late May, the team fell to PDA 5-1, while playing at the New Jersey annual ECNL showcase. Going into this game was like going to war, ready for revenge against a previous competitor. With everyone’s mindset prepared with confidence and pure grit, we stayed scoreless throughout the first half. Halfway through the second half, Camryn Evans, center forward, took a touch outside the 18-yard box and fired a bullet over the PDA goalie’s head and into the back of the net. The rest of the game was a constant battle of keeping their offense out of our net and dealing with their high-pressure attack. Our defense remained strong and kept the ball out of the net. The game ended in a 1-0 victory, beating the previous national champion PDA, as we took our next step in the tournament.

The team’s next competitor in the tournament was against Concorde Fire, a team with speed up top and in the back. After such a big win against PDA, the team was ready and prepared for any challenge thrown their way. The game started off with an early goal, off a PK, from Alexa Spaanstra, a player highly active with all ages of national teams. Shortly after, Spaanstra found the back of the net again off a freekick on the edge of the eighteen. There was a total team effort defensively as we kept the ball out of our net the past two games. While keeping possession for majority of the game, the team went into an off day, with time to prepare for Monday’s game, in which we just needed a tie to advance to the national quarter finals.

Going into game three, we were expecting a battle as we had a target on our back’s, winning our previous games. Bethesda took an early 1-0 lead, the first goal the team allowed all weekend. The hunt for the next goal began, as our team needed at least a tie to continue in the tournament. We remained scoreless through the first half, and recuperated at half time, determined to tie the game. A pass from Alexa Spaanstra to Natalie Viggiano led to the tying goal, with still lots of time remaining. With competitive defense and strong goaltending, the team advanced on a 1-1 tie, sending them to the quarter finals.

The final eight teams were set as our opponent, Ohio Premier, came ready to compete. An early goal from Alexa Spaanstra set the tone for the game, giving our team the momentum we needed. The game remained 1-0 going into half time, just 45 minutes away from going into the final four. Ohio Premier struck in the second half, tying the game at one goal each. We remained resilient and patient, as we knew the next goal would most likely determine the outcome of the game. Another goal off a PK from Alexa Spaanstra, gave the team the lead again, still with time remaining. Our defenders and goaltending kept us in the game, especially in the final minutes of the game. Defenders Alexis Smith and Samantha Sklarski were determined to clear every ball coming near the box. Maciah Lipsey, one of two goalkeepers on the team, made several important saves at the end of the game, including a driven shot from the six-yard box. With just minutes left and an Ohio Premier high on the offensive line, Spaanstra was able to add her third goal off a breakaway, securing the victory for the U17 team.

In a season in which our team got off to a rough start, we fought through key injuries and adversity throughout. Our team will travel to San Diego, California for the final four of the tournament. We have no doubt our team will continue to prove at all odds and have another opportunity of winning a national championship. #whynotus

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Adil Salmoni is a staff coach with the Michigan Hawks
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