U18's Welcome Nationals

For the Cincinnati Soccer Alliance U18 Elite club, there couldn’t have been a more fitting way to end the season.

The squad advanced to the U.S. Youth Soccer 2012 National Championships after dominating performances during the regional round, which were held June 23-27 in Michigan.

“It’s incredibly fitting because the girls have worked so hard,” said Alex Rawlings, director of coaching, Alex Rawlings. “Generally they’ve been together since U10 or U11. It’s a great finale for not just great soccer players, but good individuals.”

Rawlings believes the national tournament was a goal for his team since the first day of practice, when Ellie Tillar, a recent Turpin High School graduate and Eastern Kentucky University commit, asked her coach for the tournament date.

“This was in November, and I said, Ellie, do you really want an answer to that, and she said, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going,’” Rawlings said. “I think they had it in their mind the whole time. They had it on the schedule before I did.”

The CSA roster is stockpiled with talent. Rawlings said 29 girls spread out between the club’s two 18-and-under teams will play college soccer.

Milford High School alumnus Morgan Wolcott (Ohio State) and Sydney Lovelace (Indiana State) of Franklin, Ohio, helped propel the club through regionals by scoring four goals a piece.

“The strength of this team is that offense. You could have four or five different girls attack,” Rawlings said. “Sydney plays outside, and she can attack with speed and she has a nose for the goal, and Morgan can play with her back to the goal and she can beat you one on one.”

CSA offense suffered a blow before nationals when Wolcott went down with a knee injury. She didn’t play at nationals, according to Rawlings.

Other scorers who helped CSA find the back of the net this season include Laura Rose (Walnut Hills), Holly Harris (Batavia) and McKenzie Hamilton (Fenwick).

The trio scored two goals a piece as CSA netted 15 team goals its five games at regionals.

For as good as the team’s offense was this season, the defense was equally impressive.

With Selby Smith (Fenwick) and Ashley Long (Turpin) defending and Natalie Smith (St. Ursula) tending goal, the defense allowed just three scores during regionals.

“Natalie’s been nails back in the net,” Rawlings said. “She’s got great footwork and she has a great first step.”

Qualifying for nationals gave this team a vibe of vindication. In its time together, the club won state cups as 15 and 16 year olds, but missed out in 2011 because of injuries.

Nationals didn’t go the way CSA would’ve liked, as the club lost its first two matches, but the team will go down as one of the top four ranked club teams in the nation.

This group of U18 players heads to college with a decorated tenure, having won three total state cups and four MRL Premier Championships.

But for Rawlings, going to nationals was the sweetest achievement of them all.

“…After we won regional and we felt the joy and the relief all at once. A couple girls ran to their parents, a couple came back and gave hugs. This was true fulfillment…we got the monkey off our back…it was a great moment for everybody involved.”

Other girls on the team include: Madison Bunnell (Milford), Meghan Cook (Milford), Zoe Curry (Ursuline Academy), Megan Dalton (Anderson), Kiersten Johnson (Hamilton), Sydney Loesing (Anderson), Lauren Mathews (Badin), Jordan Mcgee (Landmark), Hannah Moloney (Loveland), Holly Sparks (Fairfield), Kylie Sumner (Clermont Northeastern), Katelyn Vail, Ellen West (Landmark).

Written by: Nick Dudukovich

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