In a remarkable feat for a youth team from the Northwest, the girls under-15 team from Tualatin Hills United SC have won back-to-back National Championships for their club. Onyx, last year's winners of the NPL Finals at U14, ran rampant through the OPL Winter League's U15/U16 NPL Division to earn their way back to the NPL Finals to defend last year's championship, which they did in fine form going unbeaten and unscored upon for the duration of the tournament.
THUSC Director of Coaching, as well as the Onyx's head coach Tom Atencio was thrilled his team had a chance to play on the elite platform of the NPL Finals. "The benefit of the NPL is to compete in an event outside of the NW against teams from the Midwest, south and Northeast, and we got to do just that against teams from Texas, Louisiana, New Jersey, and California. It was a great event for our team."
THUSC got their trophy defense going with a steam-rolling of Baton Rouge SC in their opening game of group play, winning 7-0. McKenzie Weinert netted a brace for Onyx, while Hannah Clifford, Haley Clifford, Eileen Reyna, Haley Clark, and Lindsey Howard knocked in one apiece.
In their next game, against newer club Space City FC out of Houston, Onyx continued to spread the scoring love around the team, with a different player scoring each of their four goals in their win. Haley Clark, Lacey Adye, Hannah Clifford, and Lindsey Howard were the goalscorers on Day 2, putting Onyx to the top of their group table, setting up a Day 3 showdown with perennial girls soccer powerhouse PDA, out of New Jersey, for group champion.
The Day 3 showdown proved to be a cagey affair, with both teams needing only a tie to advance, based on the wild card rules to advance to the semifinals. Both coaches chose to not to tip their hand, with the potential to face each other again in the semis, and the game ultimately ended in a draw, with neither team scoring any goals. THUSC managed to stay at the top of the group on goal differential, but it didn't make much difference for they would have another shot at each other a day later in the semifinals. Said Atencio "with the heat and humidity in North Carolina, our players needed to be very disciplined with regard to hydration and rest."
In the penultimate game, THUSC managed to bring something different and just a little more to the game than their New Jersey counterparts, ultimately winning 2-0 on an early second half goal from Monet Kunz, with Haley Clark adding the second and putting the game out of reach for PDA and Onyx through to the final.
The California-based opponent, Carlsbad United, had a similar romp through group play, as Onyx, going undefeated, and earning their spot in the final with the same 2-0 scoreline as Onyx. But the kids from Oregon were just too much to handle, overwhelming Carlsbad all over the field, winning 3-0 for their second national championship trophy. Hannah Clifford delivered in a big way for Onyx with two great goals, earning her the top scoring honors for her team with 4 goals. Monet Kunz also found the net in the final, ensuring her side would be hoisting that national championship trophy once more.
And it has to be said, the goalkeeping tandem of Sarajean Edwards and Emma Hinson were outstanding for Onyx. Neither gave up a goal over the course of the 5-game tournament, giving their team a tremendous amount of confidence going forward knowing they had things in hand at the back.
"This was such an outstanding tournament," Atencio commented after Onyx's win. "It was very well organized and the fields were good condition for the players to play at their highest level. As a group, we are so happy to finish our year like this, and as the club director I couldn't be more proud of them. This group, along with several key additions from around our area, will get to move into the ECNL with Crossfire United next year, the top proving ground for girls soccer in our country, and I think they are ready for the challenge."
For now, they'll get some much need rest and relaxation before taking on their respective high school soccer seasons and regrouping with their new ECNL club in November.