July 28, the Pali Blues won the 2013 W-League Championship with a 1-0 victory over the Laval Comets at IMG Academy. It was the Blues third title in the past six years, when the club was first launched.
“I feel like everything kind of led to this day,” said Pali Head Coach Charlie Naimo. “There’s been a lot of adversity, and I just didn’t think they had losing in their mind this year. A lot of times you have talent on your team but you’re just not sure if they’re ready to get it done, but a lot of these kids have stayed to the end and made sacrifices.”
The game featured international talent on both sides of the pitch, but Pali was able to control much of the play. Laval goalkeeper Genevieve Richard held tough, however, and the Blues couldn’t get the ball by her. Named the W-League Goalkeeper of the Year on Saturday, Richard turned in a stellar performance that included a second-half penalty kick save to keep Laval in the match.
Pali’s Chioma Ubogagu was taken down in the box in the 52nd minute to draw the penalty, and hit a strong shot to the lower left corner that Richard directed off the left post. Richard robbed Ubogagu again eight minutes later when the Stanford star bent a shot toward the top right corner that Richard was able to fend off.
An own goal of the foot of Laval player/coach Cindy Walsh in the 87th minute made the difference. Pali’s scoring play started at the feet of U.S. U-20 star Katie Stengel, who received a pass in the box, but was taken down by a pair of defenders. Walsh tried to clear it, but it trickled past Richard for the game’s only goal.
Pali’s midfield was dominant most of the match, with championship MVP Ashley Nick, Abby Dahlkemper and Sarah Killion dictating the play. Laval resorted to long balls over the top for much of the match, but Pali keeper Anna Maria Picarelli and the backline of Sasha Andrews, Kassey Kallman, Satara Murray and Caprice Dydasco held firm.
“I’m always going to think about ‘why can’t we get that one second back’ and ‘why can’t this be our fourth championship,’ but a championship always feels great and tomorrow I’m going to wake up and think about how we can do it again,” said Naimo.
2013 W-League honors
Most Valuable Player & Rookie of the Year – Shan Jones, Virginia Beach Piranhas
Jones had a memorable rookie season with the Piranhas, leading the league in goals (11) and Points (24) as Virginia Beach compiled the best regular-season record in the league at 10-1-1. A 2011 Middle Tennessee State graduate, Jones has represented her native Wales on the international stage and earned Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and first team All-Sun Belt honors during her tenure with the Blue Raiders.
Defender of the Year – Blakely Mattern, Carolina Elite Cobras
A 2009 graduate of the University of South Carolina where she was a two-time All-American, Mattern led the Cobras to their first Southeastern Conference title with two goals and an assist while serving as the team’s leader on defense. Mattern was a member of the Atlanta Beat of WPS in 2009-10, and joined Dutch side FC Twente in 2011.
Coach of the Year – Cindy Walsh, Laval Comets
Walsh is honored for the second consecutive season, but in a much different role. A year after being named the league’s top defender, Walsh stepped behind the bench and guided the Comets (8-1-3) to the top of the Central Conference and their first appearance at the W-League Championship. Of course, with Walsh at the helm the Comets allowed the fewest goals in the league, surrendering seven in 12 regular-season games.
Goalkeeper of the Year – Genevieve Richard, Laval Comets
Richard led the league with six shutouts in 11 games and was second in goals-against average at 0.545 and wins with seven. Preparing for her junior season at the University of Wisconsin, Richard was Canada’s starter at the FIFA U17 World Cup in New Zealand in 2008. Richard’s presence at the back has been one of the main reasons for Laval’s 2013 success.
The W-League is the first and longest-standing women’s soccer league in North America. The 2013 W-League campaign features 25 teams in four regional conferences playing 10-12 regular season matches. Featuring current and former international and professional stars, the W-League also provides elite amateurs the opportunity to compete while maintaining their eligibility as college student-athletes.
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