Cincinnati West soccer club made its biggest statement yet, as the club’s U17 girls squad advanced to the championship match of the President’s Cup National Championship.
This was the first trip to nationals for a Cincinnati West team. On July 12, the girls finished second in a tournament of more than 300 teams.
“We could not have been more pleased and excited to have represented Cincinnati West SC – all of our players, teams, coaches and staff – as well as the entire Cincinnati soccer community, at the national level,” said Cincinnati West U17 head coach and director of coaching Kevin Spraul. “The atmosphere, the facilities, the competition, everything was almost perfect and a soccer dream come true. I also want to say thanks for all of the incredible support we received from our club and Cincinnati. I can’t think of a better way to represent Cincinnati Soccer.”
Stellar defense carried the team to the final match of the national tournament. The squad did not allow a goal for 635 minutes leading up to the championship match. Goalie Logan Lake (Harrison) made some great saves in goal, and center back Maddie Rechel (Harrison) and center midfielder Claire Herzog (Mercy) helped Cincinnati West control the tempo throughout the tournament.
“We played incredible defense all weekend and in regionals back in June,” said Spraul. “Our entire team defends exceptionally well.”
The team was presented with the fair play sportsmanship award at the conclusion of the tournament. That award means as much to Spraul as the on-field victories.
“Their resiliency and determination to get to the finals was on another level and was so impressive,” he said. “I am so proud of these young ladies, having battled injuries, fatigue, and the Kansas heat to make it into the finals.”
Having to rally from behind to advance to the final was no sweat for this team, which embraced its underdog role throughout the tournament season. They improved by leaps and bounds from the fall campaign and started to believe after winning the Ohio South President’s Cup.
“We had a rough fall season. If you had told the girls that when July rolled around, instead of training with their high school teams, they would still be playing club soccer and playing for a national title, I’m not sure any of them would have believed it,” said Spraul. “But, we trained hard, learned from our mistakes and from each other, focused on team play, depending on each other with every player being a critical part of the whole, and the girls started believing in one another, pushing each other to be better.”
In their second match in Kansas, the girls needed to win the match by a large margin to secure the necessary goal differential to advance. Cincinnati West won 3-0. When they needed a win or draw against Washington to advance to Sunday’s final, they pulled it off with a draw. They fell 2-0 to Washington in the final, but proved that they can compete with any team in the nation.
“This experience has given the players a sense of accomplishment and increased confidence that hard work, dedication and teamwork lead to success,” said Spraul, “valuable life lessons that will go well beyond the soccer field for these young adults. Our players had their backs up against the wall several times this past week, and every time, we answered.”
The run to nationals by the U17 United Red squad inspired the rest of the Cincinnati West program. The younger girls in CWSC now believe that they can win a national championship in the near future.
“It is huge for our players, teams, coaches, staff, and our club. The girls have set a high standard and example for our youth players who strive to one day also play for a championship and achieve soccer success,” said Spraul. “The team has inspired a whole club. That is a powerful thing that we are very thankful for. This experience will continue to build our club’s success and reputation and continues to provide real validation of the success of our club’s values, principles, and foundation as a club for all players and teams.”