Tuesday, December 15, 2015
BRADENTON, Fla. – As time ticked down between two fierce rivals, it seemed no one would find a way to break the deadlock before the game went to overtime.
Then, with a minute to go, Washington Spirit Academy VA Red’s Camryn Taylor became the heroine.
“It was just like a sigh of relief,” Taylor said. “Then turning round and seeing the whole team cheering, it was the best feeling I’ve had.”
The late tally earned the Spirit Academy a 1-0 victory against the Northern Virginia Majestics in the Girls U16 Championship at the 2015 SYL North American Finals, and capped a strong tournament for the club that saw it bounce back from a late defeat in its second contest to claim a berth in the semifinals, and ultimately a championship.
Taylor had almost given the Spirit Academy the lead with five minutes to go, as a good through-ball by Rachel Jackson released her on the right. Taylor’s shot beat the advancing ‘keeper, but drifted just far enough to hit the left post, allowing the Majestics to clear.
With a minute to go, though, Taylor was in the right place at the right time as a cross from the left was unable to be claimed by the Majestics goalkeeper in a crowd, and the ball dropped to allow Taylor to finish into the right corner.
“Cammy’s been instrumental to us throughout this tournament,” Spirit Academy Coach George Hales said. “She’s a versatile player, two good feet, and hungry and willing to do whatever it takes whether the role is in the middle or the outside. She’s an incredible player.”
Northern Virginia opened the game brightly, and both Imani McGee and Samantha Gordon went close to opening the scoring early. Jackson had Washington’s first good chance in the 20th minute as she hit a turning shot from the right side of the penalty area to the near post, but the goalkeeper saved well.
For the most-part, though, the defenses remained on top. While McGee often threatened for Northern Virginia down the flank, Ella Callahan was solid in goal for Washington as she claimed numerous crosses into her penalty area, and made a good save to keep the game scoreless 10 minutes into the second half when Kristina Toms fired a shot from distance that was headed to the top-right corner.
The Majestics’ short bench took a toll late on, however, as the side was out of substitutions when a player was forced from the game with injury. Down a player, Northern Virginia still remained dangerous as it looked to take the lead, but it also meant the side was susceptible to the counterattack. As the game drew to a close, the Spirit Academy gained the upper hand, and made their advantage count with Taylor’s late finish.
“That’s a great team,” Hales said. “We play them often, and we have a lot of respect for them, and we always have close matches. We wish those girls well, it was an unfortunate injury.”
For the Spirit Academy’s players, though, the win caps a week that saw the team come through when it needed to, reeling off three consecutive victories to claim the championship.
“It’s crazy to think already,” Taylor said. “It’s awesome, it’s so crazy.”