Cincinnati United 05 GA Unbeaten in All Competitions on Road to Winning GA National Championship
After 12 months of training, 20 league and 3 showcase matches, the Cincinnati United 05 GA team finished the inaugural season of the Girls Academy with 9 straight victories culminating in a 2-1 win over Southwest Division Champions, Utah Royals, thereby securing the U16 Girls Academy National Title. This impressive run of form capped off a season in which the Cincinnati United 05 GA remained unbeaten in all competitions amassing a final record of 19 wins and 8 draws.
The path to playoffs in the Mid-America Division of the Girls Academy League is a difficult one. The U16 age group of the Mid-America Division put in a league high 5 playoff teams through 3 automatic qualifications and 2 Wild Card positions. The division itself secured 3 National Titles. Cincinnati United separated itself as the only club in the league to bring home two National Titles, one at U14 and one at U16.
According to Cincinnati United Executive Director, Scott Rodgers, “Playing in the Mid-America division is both a challenge and an opportunity. The strength of this conference ensures that, game in and game out, we will see the most talented, well coached teams in the region. That is both the challenge and the opportunity. Advancing out of the Mid-America means that you are battle tested and well prepared for the rigors of playoff group play and knockout stages soccer. Winning two national titles at U14 and U16 as well as a semi-finalist appearance at U17 is evidence of this. We are grateful to be a part of this league and conference that gives our players the opportunity to be better everyday.”
With a 4-1 victory over Indy Premier on the final day of the league season, the U16 side captained by the trio of Ava Arengo, Sydney Skinner and Rylie McKinney, secured the top seed in Group H of the GA Play-Off held in Oceanside, CA June 26-June 30th. In group play, the team defeated Albion LV (2-0), Houston Dynamo Dash (2-1) and South Shore Select (2-1) setting up a rematch from the GA Spring Showcase versus Lonestar SC (TX). After conceding early to the Texas side, the team dominated the final 60 minutes of play, scoring twice and securing a berth in the first ever GA National Finals.
“The resiliency and perseverance of this group of players to outlast the opposition was a hallmark of their run to a National Title,” commented Head Coach and CUP Director of Coaching, Blake Decker. “ On three different occasions during the playoffs deficits were overturned in the final 15 minutes of play. Having quality is one thing. The ability to maintain that quality in the face of pressure, fatigue and talented opposition is something else entirely and this group demonstrated that ability time after time.”
This resiliency was no more evident than in their 5-3 victory over Oakwood SC in the semi-final match. After going up 2-0 in the first half on goals from Kennedy Clark and Kalyn Rich, Oakwood roared back with 3 unanswered goals at the start of the second half. Down 3-2 with 20 minutes remaining in their season, the Cincinnati United 05 GA put on an attacking display that saw 3 different goal scorers tally in the final 20 minutes (Peyton Kohls, Mandy Schlueter and Tamia Graham) securing a place in the National Championship match versus Utah Royals. This explosion of goals capped off a run that saw 7 different goal scorers in the quarter-final and semi-final matches for Cincinnati United.
Utah, who faced Weston out of Miami in the other semi-final, punched their ticket for the national final in the dying moments of overtime with a set piece from 20 yards that was bent over and around the Weston wall of defenders. The match up would be a difficult one with the offensive fire power of Cincinnati United meeting a stingy Utah defense that came into the match having only conceded a total of 4 goals in their previous 6 matches and, only on 3 occasions all season, had the team conceded more than 1 goal in a match..
Offensive firepower won out in the first 20 minutes of the match as a proactive and aggressive Cincinnati United side dominated both territory and the ball with only the Utah goalkeeper and the right post keeping Cincinnati off the board. The deadlock was broken in the 24th minute after Kennedy Clark was taken down in the box by a Royals defender. Mandy Schlueter stepped up and calmly converted to the right side of the goal giving the Royal goalkeeper no chance and Cincinnati the lead.
The score remained 1-0 at the break, but Cincinnati would pick up where they left off finding their second goal of the game in the 55th minute after right back, Kalyn Rich, won a ball near the midline initiating a counter attack that would end, once again, with a Mandy Schlueter finish to the top right corner. Ever dangerous on set pieces, Utah would find their way back into the game in the 70th minute after a ball served into the box fell to the ground and was rifled into the top right corner of the Cincinnati goal.
This goal would set up a nervy and unconventional ending to a national championship match as, minutes later in the 74th minute, a weather delay was called just as Utah earned a set piece from 30 yards. A ninety-minute delay ensued giving both teams plenty to think about during the break. As the two teams retook the field, Utah piled players into the Cincinnati box hoping to find the equalizing goal. The girls from the Queen City, however, were up to the challenge, preventing a clear opportunity from the first ball and after a frenzy of blocked shots were able to clear the danger. Up a goal, and with only 15 minutes to play, the Cincinnati United team took the initiative once again, creating several chances late while also effectively dealing with an increasingly direct Utah side. After 3 minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle blew marking the achievement of an undefeated season and a second National Championship this season for the club from Cincinnati.”
“What this group of talented young women accomplished is nothing short of remarkable,” said Decker. “It is truly rare for a group to demonstrate both the consistency needed to remain unbeaten across 10 months of league play as well as the mental fortitude needed to be successful in knock-out stage competitions. This accomplishment is the product of years of commitment to their own development, countless coaches who each created an environment in which they could be challenged to improve and the support of their families who provide the opportunity for each of them to pursue their passion and potential to the fullest extent possible. Each player represented themselves, their team, their coaches, their club and their family in a way that has, without question, made good on that investment of time, sacrifice and dedication.”