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Blues, Spirit Reserves meet for Championship

[W-League feature]

A year ago, the LA Blues and Washington Spirit Reserves played to one of the most memorable games in the W-League Championship’s 20-year history. The Blues claimed a 3-2 semifinal victory in extra time on the way to the club’s third championship.

On Sunday, the two teams will meet for a second consecutive season at IMG Academy, and this time the championship is on the line. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. ET at IMG Stadium and the game will stream live on YouTube.

The Spirit Reserves came through another thriller on Friday evening as they needed a penalty shootout to advance past Ottawa Fury FC to reach the championship game for the first time. After falling to the Blues in last season’s semifinal, the motivation to return to IMG, and get the chance at redemption has been a theme throughout the season for players like Kate Yensen.

“That defeat [to the Blues] is still on a lot of our minds from last year,” Yensen said earlier this month on W-League Weekly. “We remember it, we remember how hard we played, and how disappointed we were at the end of the game, yet so proud we played really well.”

A year ago, the Blues twice took the lead midway through each half. Current Sky Blue FC midfielder Ashley Nick opened the scoring in the first half, only for Andi Sullivan to reply just before the halftime break for Washington. The pattern repeated itself in the second half, when Katie Stengel scored in the 65th minute, only for Monica Mendes to reply in the final minute of regulation.

The Blues moved on, however, through Chioma Ubogagu’s 109th-minute goal, and then claimed the title with victory against the Laval Comets. Seeking back-to-back titles for the second time in club history, the Blues continued their perfect season on Friday with a 4-0 win against the Charlotte Lady Eagles as returning stars Elizabeth Eddy and Stengel each scored twice.

If there’s a player that might be charged with limiting the Blues’ opportunities on Sunday, however, it may be one of their former teammates. Satara Murray joined the Spirit Reserves this season and earned All-Conference honors as she continued her standout play for a second consecutive season. The Spirit Reserves were also boosted by the addition of goalkeeper Adelaide Gay, while Amber Stobbs, Yensen and Ashley Herndon were among an outstanding group of returning stars to the side’s roster from a season ago.

After the quality both sides have shown throughout the season, with the Blues sitting on the precipice of perfection and the Spirit on the verge of their first undefeated season, Sunday’s game is one that just might live up to its billing.