REDMOND, Washington — The Michigan Hawks U18 side had plenty of motivation burning in its furnace headed into the ECNL Playoffs here this week. Much of it stemmed from last season.
While the Hawks’ U14 side was busy winning a national title in Seattle in 2014, the Hawks U17 side was handed a difficult draw and couldn’t advance out of its group to make the next month’s final grouping. For a team this talented, it was a bitter pill and a tough way to end the season.
But there was another season left in the core of that U17 team. And as U18s, they made good on their desire to go out on the highest note possible.
The Hawks put in a masterclass defensive display, and a pair of headed goals on either side of the half sent them off to a 2-0 victory over West Coast FC on the last of six straight days of soccer at Sixty Acres Park. For the U14s and U18s, Tuesday represented the end of the road for the 2014-15 season. While the winners of U15, U16 and U17 groups here will move on to the ECNL Finals in Richmond, Virginia later this month, Tuesday was do-day for four sides caught in finals.
As for the Hawks, their performance was vindication for a week spent playing at a breakneck pace. The Hawks were a rolling pin in the group stage with seven points from nine matches, and a 2-1 win in the semis over a Crossfire team that had knocked out the No. 1 Dallas Sting was impressive. But this was the crowning achievement. West Coast FC actively attempted to play out of the back and through the talented Christina Settles, but it was no use. The Hawks were swarming.
They opened the scoring about 15 minutes into the match on a headed goal from Maya Piper, and they got the clincher about 10 minutes into the second half on another header from Brenna Lovera, this time off a corner. Those two, Lovera up top and Piper off her back as a second striker in attack, caused so many problems that the WCFC back line couldn’t deal with aerially. Two moments of magic ultimately proved that in spades.