Whitecaps FC Girls Elite won their final game of the NCAA Final Four Showcase with a 1-0 victory over the Texas State champions, Dallas Texans.
The wear and tear of playing three games in three days was starting to show on the girls. According to Girls Elite head coach Jesse Symons, fatigue hit both sides in the final game.
“Both groups were a little tired today for sure. So the speed of play was definitely a little bit slower,” he said. “They were a hard team to break down for us, very good athletes. We were able to pass but not able to create a lot of chances throughout the match.”
With the pace of the game slower than Symons wanted, in the 21st minute he sent Samantha Donald into the game. This turned out to be the perfect decision for the team as Donald brought an energy and confidence to the field that sparked the whole team.
“We entered Samantha Donald into a holding midfield role. She actually completely turned the match around,” said Symons. “She controlled the ball, kept everything in front of her and really put a pulse on the team.”
The lone goal of the match was scored in the 48th minute when Simmrin Dhaliwal was able to beat two Texan players, flipped the ball cross field to Margaret Hadley. Hadley then passed the ball to Sessen Stevens who scored her fourth goal of the three-game showcase.
With a 1-0 lead, the team was finally able to sit back and play their system comfortably.
“It really brought us up a bit,” said Stevens of her goal. “We could just settle down a bit and play our game.”
Stevens, who scored a hat-trick the game prior, credits her teammates with her offensive success this week.
“Without the team, I couldn’t have gotten any of the goals. There were some amazing passes for the goals. It’s a really good environment [and] a good team,” she said.
Just five minutes after the Stevens’ goal, goalkeeper Priya Sandhu made a game saving stop against a Texan player who took a pass and had a clear opening. Sandu was able to dive to stop the ball, keeping the team's lead intact.
The 'Caps went all three Showcase games without giving up a goal. Symons gives just as much credit to his back four as he does to his 'keepers for this accomplishment.
“The back four did really well to stay connected with each other. That made it easier for our two 'keepers. Both Priya [Sandhu] and Rebecca [Defer] really made sure they stayed focused on keeping the ball in front of them. Both also did a really good job of being leaders back there and holding on to every ball that got into the penalty box.”
Symons was not the only coach impressed with his team's performance, as he had many NCAA coaches commending his squads’ efforts following the game.
“A lot of the coaches came and brought up how good technically they were and how well they worked off each other,” he said. “I think the coaches were all really impressed with how the team was connecting from an attacking perspective.
The girls were competing in the showcase side of the event. It is used to give NCAA coaches a good look at the players that could potentially play for their school. The event takes place during the NCAA Final Four.
Though the Whitecaps girls have finished their games in the tournament, three 'Caps alumni will be playing in the finals of the college portion of the tournament.
Penn State starting 'keeper Erin McNulty and North Carolina’s Amber Brooks and Ranee Premji have all been a part of the Whitecaps program in recent years and will play against one another in the finals.
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