VIRGINIA BEACH — Region 5 has not lost the U19 division of the National Futures Tournament since it was moved from College Park, Md. to the National Training Center at Virginia Beach in 2002.
And not even a plucky Boston team from Region 2 could stop the juggernaut of Team Scranton in this year’s tournament. Despite Tacy Zysk’s fine seventh-minute goal against the run of play, the Pennsylvanians drew ahead at the interval and scored twice more in the second term to run out 4-1 winners.
Laurie Kerr, head coach of Washington Warren Hills (N.J.), got a big taste of the Pennsylvania work ethic when she coached at Muhlenberg College in the 1990s. She has dealt with a number of wonderful players who have either won or just missed out on state championships whilst at Warren Hills.
But coaching the likes of All-Americans Katie Reinprecht and Devon Gagliardi was another level of talent and sophistication.
“The challenge was to get these great players to play as one,” Kerr said. “They showed they could play as a team, even with a lot of individual talent. It took a couple of days, but they scored a lot of goals.”
For this Scranton team, it was enough to let them share the ball by creating shots. The last six goals Scranton had in the tournament were unassisted and were borne from scintillating individual brilliance. Scranton got plenty of attention for the flair shown in defeating Team Princeton in the U19 semifinals 4-1. A pair of Paige Selenski goals, including a gorgeous backhand, wowed the spectators at Landstown Road.
But it wasn’t as though the goalscorers were ball-hogs; much of the time, passing lanes were skillfully cut off. Take Taylor Swezey’s equalizer in the 17th minute of the final. She stepped into the circle, only to be left alone with enough time to order a strawberry smoothie from the nearby concession stand before she put the ball into the cage.
Just before the half, Kelsey Amy rolled towards the goal on a deep angle with three defenders cutting off crosses to the middle. Amy chose to shoot rather than dumping the ball off the defender for a long hit, and found the back of the net.
Nicole Nelson’s second-half goal came by dint of hard work, putting in a rebound past a sprawling goalkeeper. And Gagliardi’s capper in the final five seconds came against an empty net; Boston coach Andrew Smith chose to pull his goalkeeper in the final three minutes of play for an 11th field player, something allowed in FIH rules. It was the first time this had ever occurred in an NFT championship game.
“By that time,” said Smith, the Dartmouth assistant coach, “it didn’t matter whether we lost by one or three goals. We wanted to throw a wrinkle at them.”
But no amount of wrinkles could keep Scranton from giving the state of Pennsylvania another sweep of Futures medals.
Scranton 2 2 — 4
Boston 1 0 — 1
B: Tacy Zysk, fg, seventh minute
S: Taylor Swezey, fg, 17th
S: Kelsey Amy, fg, 24th
S: Nicole Nelson, fg, 35th
S: Devon Gagliardi, fg, 50th
Shots: B: 4; S: 13.
Saves: B: Courtney Osier 8, Alessandra Moss 1; S: Adrienne Ostroff 3, Devon Burnley 1.
Barbara Longstreth Sportsmanship Award: Surf City