PDA Showcase: Teams make playoff push

ZAREPHATH, N.J. – Bethesda SC had just pulled off its most significant win of the year, yet there was no fist pumps, no celebration, in fact, no reaction at all.

Following Sunday’s 3-1 win, the under-16 team from Maryland simply traded handshakes with top-seeded Slammers of California, well aware that business was far from complete.

This weekend’s Elite Clubs National League national event at the PDA Showcase offers a unique clash of priorities. For playoff-bound teams such as Slammers, which get most of the media attention, the weekend’s results only tweak their postseason standing. For the college coaches in attendance assessing talent, the results are meaningless. Then, there are programs such as Bethesda, needing positive results while clinging to the hope of making the playoffs.

The current No. 16, 17, 18 and 20 teams are among those competing at the PDA Showcase, and only the top 16 teams qualify for the playoffs.

A tie Saturday against Arsenal FC had bumped Bethesda down to 20th, four places removed from a playoff spot. The win over Slammers inched Bethesda to No. 18 with a Monday match looming against the So Cal Blues. Another Bethesda win will move the team to No. 17. Interestingly, next weekend, Bethesda faces current No. 16 Freestate Soccer Alliance in a league match that could settle the final spot for this summer’s ECNL Under-16 National Championships. Current No. 20 Carmel dealt No. 17 a playoff blow by beating the Arizona program 2-1 on Sunday.

“We know we need a few more wins to get into the top 16, which we really want to do,” said Bethesda forward Eliza Doll, who broke a scoreless match in the first half by running through Slammers’ defense and delivering a perfectly placed far-post roller into the left corner of the goal. “This was a tough game and we usually play pretty well against good teams. The fact we could pull up to the level of this team is awesome.”

Isabella Blosser and Hallie Horvath added second-half goals as Bethesda built a 3-0 lead before Slammers’ Kenzie Cerda broke up the shutout bid with five minutes left in the match.

“When the focus is there and everybody plays to their capabilities, we can beat anybody, and we’ve shown that over the years,” Bethesda coach Dave Nolan said. “We just need to strive a bit harder to get that consistency.”

Despite the loss, Slammers, ranked No. 3 in the ESPNHS ECNL Under-16 Power Rankings, remain in first place in the ECNL point standings.

“After each goal, we were really excited, but we were just really tired after the game,” Doll said about the lack of post-match celebration. “But trust me, we are really excited.”