Lightning Strikes Twice at US Youth Soccer National Championships

The Under-14 Girls Foothill MVLA Lightning successfully navigated the waters of preliminary round play at the US Youth Soccer National Championships in Overland Park, Kans., and sailed into the championship game.

Perhaps it was a sign of things to come when thunder and lightning rolled through Overland Park on Saturday evening, delaying the start of games by more than an hour, but the weather did not dampen the spirit and excitement once games kicked off.

Contrary to the old adage, lightning did strike in the same place twice as the MVLA Lightning went on to claim the National title. The final match went scoreless through regulation and two overtime periods to finally culminate in Lightning’s victory in PKs, 5-3, over North Texas’ Sting 96.

MVLA advanced to the championships with two wins and a loss in preliminary round play. In their first match of the tournament, Gaby Kaplan scored the lone goal in the Lightning’s 1-0 victory over the Michigan Hawks Black. Game two saw the MVLA girls fall to Sting 96 from North Texas — a loss the Lightning were determined to avenge if given the chance.

In their third round-robin match, Lightning went on to secure a 4-0 win over SA of Columbia United Premier from Maryland. A first half goal by Caitlyn Wong set the tone and the deal was sealed in the second half when Hannah Reed sandwiched her goal between the two netted by Celeste Kaashoek. Taking the winning momentum with them into the championship match served the Lightning well.

Sting entered the match with some confidence after having dealt MVLA their only defeat of the tournament during group play on Thursday. But MVLA’s defense, and specifically keeper Jacquelyn Caginia, rose to the occasion and carried the team to the coveted US Youth Soccer National Championship. Caginia fended off every scoring chance Sting brought her way and continued her goaltending dominance through the kicks from the penalty spot tie-breaker. The MVLA keeper was rewarded for her excellence when she was named the Golden Glove winner, presented to the outstanding goalkeeper of the tournament. Teammate Gaby Kaplan was recognized as the tournament’s MVP and was awarded the Golden Ball trophy for her achievement.

A win, a loss and a tie were not enough to advance Mt Hamilton PAC Tigres, the Region IV champion from CYSA, to the U15 boys’ finals. A scoreless tie in game one against Michigan’s Vardar, a 5-2 loss to the Baltimore Bays Chelsea and a 2-0 victory over the Lemont Raiders of Illinois rounded out the Tigres first experience at Nationals. Cesar Garcia and Edson Cardona provided the offensive punch in the Tigres loss to Chelsea. In their final match versus the Raiders, Cesar Garcia scored his second goal of the tournament to bookend an insurance goal netted by Sergio Rico.

In other action, the California Northstars from Southern Alameda County ended their competition with a 2-2 tie against the Eclipse Select of Illinois. Micaela Castain scored both goals for the Northstars, who exited the tournament with two losses and a tie. In the U19 girls’ first game, Marisa Schneider was responsible for both Northstars goals in a scoring frenzy to start the second half in a tough, 3-2 loss to Lonestars 91 Red from South Texas. In game two, Mariah Cameron managed the lone Northstars goal against the powerhouse FC Bucks Vipers from Pennsylvania East. The trip to Nationals wraps up the youth soccer experience for most of the Northstars players, who move on to the college ranks.

The Mt Hamilton and MVLA teams, meanwhile, return to California, where they will set the standard in CYSA’s new state-wide playing league, CYSA-Cal Soccer League.

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