Another US Title
On August 1st, the NYAC women’s soccer team found itself in familiar territory: playing for the United States Amateur Soccer Association national championship, this year against Dallas Premier (North Texas). What was unfamiliar, in a way, was the team: a new head coach, new general manager and only four returning starters. For most teams, that much turnover would be problematic; but, the NYAC women have a stellar résumé, which includes winning the 2007 USASA national championship, reaching the regional championship game in five of the past six years and competing in the USASA national championship game in 2009.
This reconstructed NYAC women’s team prevailed against a very physical Dallas Premier team in overtime, 2-0, on a hot and humid Sunday morning at the United German Hungarian Club in Feasterville-Trevose, PA. Victorious coach, Courtney Carroll, lauded the ability of the veterans to blend seamlessly with the newcomers and set the tone for the tournament. “Big games came out of our NYAC veterans,” she said. “Their collective experience helped elevate the team’s mental approach to the game, and their supportive nature, on and off the bench, was an essential component of our success.”
From the first minute, the NYAC took the game to the Dallas defense, its industrious midfield creating several good scoring opportunities in the first half. The NYAC’s attacking mid-fielder, Emily Behncke, (Princeton) orchestrated the offense, while her former Princeton teammate Maura Gallagher’s quick feet and technical ability allowed her to get out of tight spaces and play through balls and dangerous crosses into the forwards. Outside mid-fielder, Alisha Moran (Harvard) and left fullback, Stephanie Barrett (UMass) threw themselves into the attack, providing width for the offense and constant pressure on Dallas’ fullbacks. Despite the pressure, the NYAC women could not crack the Dallas defense.
At the other end of the pitch, Dallas put together several good combinations on its own; but, it never looked menacing to the NYAC net. Most of its offensive chances were broken up before becoming too dangerous, or resulted in Dallas’ forwards receiving balls further away from NYAC’s goal than forwards would typically like.
The NYAC continued to build opportunities in the second half. The speedy Jevne Reid (Radford), brought on in the second half, gave the Dallas defense fits. Erin Byrnes (Villanova) and Lindsey Vanderspiegel (William & Mary) provided creativity and poised distribution to the midfield. As the second half wore on and the heat and humidity began to drain the fuel tanks of all the players, play got a little more wide open. Although the NYAC continued to dominate possession, in a game such as this one the chances that an opponent converts off a sudden counter-attack, or an exhaustion-induced mistake usually increase. But, the NYAC’s disciplined back line stifled any Dallas scoring chances, making very timely tackles that rattled Dallas’ forwards as they received balls into their feet. Center back Megan Klement (St. John’s) anchored the NYAC’s back four, and fellow center back Courtney Wright (UCLA) shut down Dallas’ big forward, Princess Haley, in a number one-on-one situations. Goalkeeper, Tatiana Saunders, a heady 17 year old on her way to Dartmouth, was a vocal presence and confident in the air, providing further security for the NYAC defense.
The constant NYAC pressure and the draining heat finally got to North Texas in the first overtime period. Byrnes’ creativity in the mid-field picked the lock on the Dallas door, setting up the first goal by Alisha Moran. This is getting to be a habit with Moran, who scored the winning goal in NYAC’s 2007 national championship. Minutes later, Byrnes sealed the deal with a goal of her own, giving the NYAC a 2-0 cushion going into the second overtime period.
From then on, it was mostly a question of whether the NYAC would score its third goal, as Dallas was forced to take risks to try to cut the deficit; but, the score line didn’t budge. “The team delivered its best performance when it mattered most,” said NYAC’s general manager Charles Spingler. The NYAC women’s soccer team, new and improved, had captured its second national title in four years.