ZAREPHATH, N.J. – The match was played under a constant threat of rain, but as far as top-ranked Eclipse Select Under-17s were concerned, it felt as if they had been struck by lightning a second time.
For the second time in 11 months, Real So Cal zapped Eclipse Select, this time rallying for a 3-2 victory to highlight Saturday’s Elite Clubs National League action at the PDA Showcase. Last year’s Real So Cal victory was a bit more monumental, beating then top-seeded Eclipse Select in the national quarterfinals.
“I guess we’ve got their number,” laughed Real So Cal coach Kristy Walker, who was stunned by the outcome. UCLA signee Kristiana Konkol-Mroczkowski converted a late penalty kick for the winning margin.
“The biggest mistake we made when we were in the ascendency in the first half, up 2-0, was not getting that third goal,” Eclipse Select coach Mike Nesci said. “We never killed that game off [with a third goal], and in the last 15 minutes, I felt their energy was much better than ours. They put us under pressure, especially after play went 2-2, and they definitely looked like the team that was going to go on and win the game.”
Eclipse built a 2-0 lead on a first-minute goal by Kara Morway, whose crossing pass found the net after the Real So Cal keeper misjudged the intended target, and a 35-yard free kick score by Taylor Schissler.
Rachel Conners served up a corner kick that Alexis Vanegas redirected into the goal for Real So Cal, making the score 2-1.
“That first goal sparked energy under all of us,” Vanegas said. “But at 2-0, no one put their heads down. We felt like we were still in it.”
Midway through the second half, Conners again assisted a Vanegas goal to knot the score at 2.
With five minutes remaining, Ari Ship made a run down the right wing then cut into the penalty box, where she was taken down by an Eclipse defender. After checking the location, the referee signaled to the penalty spot.
Konkol-Mroczkowski told her teammates she wanted to take the penalty, and no one objected. Her shot, to the keeper’s right, deflected off the Eclipse keeper’s hands before hitting the back of the net.
“I was nervous,” Konkol-Mroczkowski admitted. “[The keeper] could have gotten both her hands on it, but luckily it went in.”
While Eclipse Select, which entered at 18-1, remains at the top of the ECNL standings, the win was crucial for Real So Cal, which started the day 12th. The top 16 qualify for the playoffs.
“I think they brought heart and character and they knew if they wanted to stay in the national championship [race] they had to play, and they played in the second half,” Walker said.
For Eclipse, Nesci was reserving judgment on Eclipse’s position until after Sunday’s match.
“If we have a good reaction [Sunday], I think we will still be in a very good spot going into nationals. But we’ve got to have a really good reaction tomorrow.”