TopDrawer Soccer Article Written by Will Parchman
The ECNL Seattle event wrapped up on Sunday, bringing together a host of the nation’s top girls talent from across the nation. For the U14 and U18 age groups it represented the national finals, and the Michigan Hawks U14 and PDA U18 teams wrapped up successful weeks with hardware.
Here’s a look at the TopDrawerSoccer.com combined Best XI from those U14 and U18 national finals contests. Note that this represents teams and players TopDrawerSoccer.com saw in person over the course of the six-day event.
GK Heather Rolls, Michigan Hawks U18: Hawks ultimately fell a win short of a national title, but Rolls was imperious between the pipes in nearly getting them there. They shut out all three opponents in the group phase, and when Real So Cal forced penalty kicks in the semifinal, Rolls came up with two enormous saves to put the Hawks in the title game. While a tight 2-1 loss to PDA followed, the Georgetown commit did herself proud in Seattle.
Shae Holmes, Real Colorado U14: Left backs aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, so Holmes’ influence didn’t go unnoticed in Seattle. She routinely popped up on the overlap for Real Colorado, and was just as adept at tracking runners and shutting down attacks. Notably, Holmes scored an absolute screamer in the U14 championship game against the Hawks U14 side to knot the game at 2-2 late. Real Colorado couldn’t come up with the victory, but Holmes got them to the doorstep.
Courtney Coate, San Diego Surf U18: Before running into the grinder that is the PDA U18s in the national semifinals, the Surf were among the most defensively sturdy teams at a goal-happy tournament in Seattle. They shut out the explosive Lonestar SC attack in addition to an Internationals side that had scored three earlier in the week. Coate was a stabilizing force in the middle, and the Pittsburgh pledge gave them the steel to get to the semis.
D Samantha Kleedtke, Michigan Hawks U14: A defender adept at drilling free kicks? In a lot of ways, Kleedtke is a coach’s dream. Kleedtke was a solid central defender throughout the week, but her real utility lay in her ability to hit withering free kicks. She scored from a spot kick from 25 yards in the U14 final and set up another goal with a 35-yard boomer in eventual victory. Every team has a spot for a player like Kleedtke.
M Ashlynn Serepca, Charlotte SA U14: Given that she hasn’t yet been called into a YNT camp, Serepca is one of the nation’s best-kept secrets. The secret may be out after this week following a solid 2-1 showing in Seattle. Serepca is a fluid attacking midfielder who can double as a striker, and while Charlotte SA didn’t advance past PDA, Serepca was a nightmare for opposing defenders all week.
M Rachel Corboz, PDA U18: This PDA side wrapped up arguably the best run in the history of the ECNL by winning its second consecutive national title in barnstorming fashion. Corboz was the team’s beating heart in the midfield, both setting attacks and helping shut down opposing ones. She’ll join her sister at Georgetown in the fall, and that should immediately create a midfield of silk.
M Sophie Hirst, Crossfire Premier U14: As far as wingers go, it didn’t get any better in the U14 ranks over the course of the week than hometown favorite Hirst. The right winger had a huge week, contributing to Crossfire’s 11-1 goal differential in the group phase and then operating as its most dangerous threat in an eventual 5-2 loss to the Hawks in the semifinals. Speed, guile and agility for days in all-important wide positions.
M Amelia Paternoster, PDA U14: PDA was given a raw deal with its group, as it was lumped in with top overall seed Charlotte SA. Despite not being the favorites, PDA put in a massive 3-1 victory over Charlotte to help win the group. Paternoster, an influential right winger all week, scored twice in that game to set the tone for a week in which she was often the most influential player on the field.
F Alexa Spaanstra, Michigan Hawks U14: There’s no question that Spaanstra deserves the player of the tournament award. The most dangerous U14 player in Seattle scored five goals in five games, including a hat trick in the semifinal and the title-winning goal with just minutes to play. With impeccable footwork, lightning-quick speed and a poacher’s instinct, Spaanstra has quite a future ahead.
F Laila Gray, McLean U18: McLean was involved in one of the great games of this tournament, and Gray was center stage for the fireworks. In their opening game against D’Feeters, McLean trailed 2-1 with just minutes to play when Gray popped up with the tying goal. In stoppage time, the dangerous Virginia Tech commit sliced in an assist to hand McLean the full three points. They ran into PDA in the next game, but a 2-1 week with Gray leading the charge is nothing to sniff at.
F Lauren Jankowski, PDA U18: PDA is loaded with tremendous attackers, but Jankowski, a South Carolina commit, came up with the timeliest goal of all. Playing off the more physical Colby Ciarrocca, Jankowski spun into dangerous positions all week, and it was her goal against Hawks in the final that gave PDA its second title in as many years. A lasting legacy to remember on a team full of stars.