Washington Spirit Reserves News Release - www.washingtonspirit.com
Saturday, July 20, 2013
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Washington Spirit Reserves defeated the Virginia Beach Piranhas 2-1 Friday night in the Northeastern Conference Championship to secure a spot at the 2013 W-League Championship presented by Nike. The top-seeded Piranhas were unable to hold off a second-half Washington comeback, capped by Ashley Herndon’s game-winner in the 64th minute.
After falling to the Piranhas just six days prior, the Spirit Reserves entered Friday’s match with a sense of determined purpose. Finding themselves down 1-0 at the half, Washington roared back with two unanswered goals in the final 45 minutes. The win propels the Spirit Reserves into the 2013 W-League Championship next weekend at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The W-League Championship utilizes a final four tournament format to determine the North American title-winner.
Soaring temperatures and solar heat radiating off the Virginia Beach Sportsplex turf throughout the day gave way to a welcome sunset and pleasant coastal breeze at kickoff. In contrast to the pleasing conditions, both teams eagerly renewed the local rivalry and fiercely went at each other from the opening whistle.
Several opportunities tested the defenses at either end, and it seemed the half was destined to end scoreless. Virginia Beach dispelled that notion in stoppage time to send the home side Piranhas into the locker room with the 1-0 lead.
With a single minute of added time in the first half, the Piranhas launched a rapid assault at the Washington goal. Following a bit of confusion from a Virginia Beach rebounding shot, the Piranhas earned their first corner kick of the match. Virginia Beach midfielder Meghan Dullea drove the kick to the far side of the Washington goal mouth to crashing teammate Esther Anyanwu. Anyanwu pounded her volley into the upper right corner of the net with authority to open the scoring.
For the second time in less than a week, the Spirit Reserves faced a single-goal deficit against the Piranhas. With more at stake for Friday’s match, Washington was quick to dismiss any thoughts of a repeat of events and furiously drove at the Virginia Beach goal early in the second half.
At the start of the second half, Virginia Beach called on its scoring champion Shan Jones and focused its attack by consistently feeding the ball her direction. A member of the U-17 United States National Team, Spirit Reserves defender Andi Sullivan held her in check throughout the night, limiting the dangerous scorer to only two shots.
Stalwart Washington captain Hayley Siegel drew first blood for the visitors, nabbing the equalizer on a feed from midfielder Katie Yensen in the 57th minute. Yensen cut into the Piranhas defense and slotted a crisp ball across the front of the Virginia Beach goal to Siegel. The Spirit Reserves captain collected the pass with her back to the goal, spun and took several quick touches before hammering her shot untouched past Piranhas keeper Lauren Vetock to draw the match even.
The Spirit Reserves refused to ease up the pressure and were rewarded seven minutes later. As she has done all season, W-League assist champion Amber Stobbs added another statistical notch in the post-season in dramatic fashion.
The ever-reliable Stobbs raced down the right side of the Virginia Beach box and cruised in on goal. At the moment Virginia Beach keeper committed to the attack, Stobbs touched the ball past the sprawling Vetock to Herndon three yards out and facing nothing but net. The pass allowed Herndon to complete the Washington rally.
With the go-ahead goal in hand, the Spirit Reserves did not change the gameplan and continued on the offensive for most of the remaining 25 minutes. The heat of the day, the Washington comeback, and a few Piranhas player injuries seemed to deflate Virginia Beach as it struggled to create further chances in the waning minutes of the match.
After five minutes of added time, the Spirit Reserves and their traveling faithful in the stands erupted into jubilation with the final whistle.
“I couldn’t be happier for this group of incredible young ladies,” General Manager Tim Schweitzer said. “We have had our share of these types of games this season and seen them go the other way.
“To rise up and grab the reins when it really matters and fearlessly orchestrate a comeback like tonight shows everyone the character I have had the privilege to experience from these players all season."
The Spirit Reserves await the remaining results this weekend to determine their opponent in the W-League Championship held at the end of next week. The Carolina Elite Cobras defeated the Dayton Dutch Lions 2-1 on Friday evening to earn the Southeastern Conference spot in the finals, however both the Western and Central Conference Finals have yet to be played.