LAKE BUENA VISTA – RSL Florida’s girls under-18 team got a pair of goals in the opening seven minutes from Zoe Lombard and a pair of excellent finishes from Connor Zwetsch in the second half as it rolled to a 5-0 victory against the Clearwater Chargers in the final of the Disney Soccer Showcase on Sunday afternoon at the Wide World of Sports Complex.
Lombard gave RSL the lead in the second minute, capitalizing on an excellent pass by Niki Carter to fire home. Lombard then latched onto a through ball into the right channel in the seventh minute, rifling her shot home from just inside the penalty area.
While Lombard scored the goals, the manner of Carter’s assists drew praise from RSL coach Jim Cote.
“They were just incredible assists,” Cote said. “Two at the beginning if it and then one to Connor at the end.”
Clearwater coach Mike Mannino said he thought giving up the early goals was too big a hole for his side to dig out from, especially against a team of RSL's quality.
“A minute and a half you give up a goal, it’s tough to battle back from, and then they got a second one before we were able to even it up,” Mannino said. “Going down 2-0 to a good team like that, they beat us today, and they were the better team. They deserved it.”
RSL could have added to its lead just before halftime, Arielle Anahory having her shot well saved, but in the 56th minute it became 3-0 as center back Amy Werdine sent a long ball over the top of the Chargers defense that allowed Zwetsch to beat the offside trap. Zwetsch then touched the ball around the advancing goalkeeper before finishing into the empty net.
Carter then set up Zwetsch’s second nine minutes later, an angled ball into the top of the penalty area again putting Zwetsch in behind the Chargers defense before she deftly volleyed into the right corner of the net.
Anahory completed the scoring in the 76th minute giving her side its first Disney title, something which meant a lot to Lombard.
“Especially because this was our last Disney tournament, there’s no qualifier left, it’s good to go out with a win,” Lombard said.
The Brandon Flames girls under-15 team also brought home a title, winning a penalty shootout 5-3 to defeat the Ponte Vedra Storm after the sides had played to a 2-2 tie after regulation and overtime.
The Flames had started strongly, Shea Rhoney going close to giving her side a lead in the first 10 minutes with a shot that was well-saved at the left post. The Flames took the lead from the penalty spot in the 19th minute as a long free kick bounced into the penalty area, and Aubrey Riggins was brought down as she moved in on goal. Caroline Evers stepped up and converted from the spot, shooting low into the right corner.
Jackie Simpson then doubled the Flames advantage 10 minutes later, driving a shot from the right side of the penalty area into the left side-netting of the goal. The finish drew praise from Flames coach Randy Belli.
“She’s a super athlete, and she plays in the center of midfield because she is so strong there, wins every ball and is a good one-on-one defender,” Belli said of Simpson. “But she has the ability to smack a ball and get forward, and it was good angle and a good finish. I would like to be able to use her more up front, but she’s such a good defender.”
Ponte Vedra put a scare into the Flames late in the first half when Taylor Valentine fired a fierce shot from outside the penalty area on target, only for Flames goalkeeper Dayton Wetherby to save well diving to her right.
The shot appeared to lift the Storm, and Valentine continued to lead the charge, tying the game seven minutes after the break as her shot from just outside the penalty area dipped underneath the crossbar into the net. Brandon had a chance to restore its two-goal advantage just after the hour-mark, but Evers saw her close-range shot come back off the crossbar.
Valentine then tied the game with 10 minutes to go, striking a free kick from 25 yards sweetly over the defensive wall and into the left corner of the net. Belli said he thought the Storm’s pressure in the second half caused problems for his side, which at times lost its composure and gave the ball away in poor positions.
“Credit to them, they’re a super group of athletes, and I think they caused us problems when they went high pressure, but they kept their backs back a bit so we couldn’t relieve pressure in behind their back four,” Belli said. “Every time we were relieving pressure, it was still in front of their back four, and they were coming at us. We got to the point where we started playing like donkeys and started smacking the ball every time we got it.”
Neither side was able to break the deadlock in overtime, sending the game to a shootout. There, Evers, Kalynne Heyer, Emily Jones, Rhoney and Amber Coca all converted from the spot, while the Storm missed on their first attempt, giving the Flames the title.
“I feel bad for Ponte Vedra to have to drop a game like that,” Belli said. “They’ve won it a couple of years in a row, and it was nice of them to let us have a chance at winning it.”