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Thursday, March 29, 2012
ECNL San Diego: U18 event outlook

By Chris Ackels

The ECNL National Event this weekend in San Diego features 38 clubs from across the country competing in southern California over three days. In total, 231 matches from across all five age groups make up the fourth national event of the 2011-2012 season.

At U18, we’ll see a rematch of last year’s championship, a battle for national prominence and a chance to shake up the rankings. ESPNHS breaks down the featured storylines from this weekend’s games in San Diego.

Championship Rematch

One of the highlights of this weekend will be a rematch of last year’s U17 ECNL National Championship between San Diego Surf and PDA. Surf, last year’s national champ, has lost a handful of key players but is still led by Stanford signee Laura Liedle and UCLA commit Kodi Lavrusky. The Surf won the match last July 1-0 on a Stephanie Hamilton goal in the 81st minute. Hamilton is now a freshman at James Madison. For PDA, it’s a revenge game of sorts, though the team is still early in the season. At 3-2-1, this weekend will be crucial in setting the tone for the New Jersey club.

The Fight for Flight B

The weekend opens with a fight for first place in National Flight B. Utah Avalanche currently sits at the top, undefeated against other Flight B competition this year. Right behind them is Scorpions, who is 4-1-1 on the year but 4-0 against Flight B opponents. The two teams meet up Friday afternoon in a match that will help determine national standings. Scorpions is led offensively by Holy Cross signee Annemarie Galvin and paced in the middle by Dayton-bound Paige Almeida. Galvin and Almeida will match up with the best of the Avalanche, including forward Lexi Peterson and midfielder Alexis Selman.

Who Will They Rank?

A few of the top teams in the ESPNHS ECNL U18 Power Rankings are active this weekend, namely No. 4 Mustang and No. 5 Arsenal. They are neck-and-neck in the power rankings and in the national standings, where they sit sixth and seventh. And they both face top 10 opponents to open the weekend. Mustang plays Slammers in one of its tougher matches yet this season, while Arsenal takes on FC Stars of Mass, a strong team still early in its schedule. Depending on how things go in these games – and if Mustang and Arsenal can take care of business in their Saturday and Sunday games – we could see a major rankings shakeup next week.

Crashing the Party

And Slammers has the best chance to crash that party. The team already is a very strong 9-2-1 and sit in first place of the SoCal Conference. Plus, it has one of the toughest schedules of all this weekend. After that Mustang match on Friday, the team moves on to play Colorado Rush on Saturday and PDA on Sunday. All three games will take place in a span of less than 48 hours, and a good showing from Slammers will undoubtedly mean the team will be ranked next week. The California girls will need a great weekend from the explosive Makenzy Doniak, who averages better than two points per game.

Another Gauntlet, Another Opportunity

It’s a very similar story for Colorado Rush: tough schedule, great opportunity. The squad currently sits in second place in the Mountain West Conference, just marginally behind Real Colorado, and in fifth place in the National Flight A standings, fractions behind Albertson Fury and warding off Arsenal and Mustang. In other words, a big weekend could pay big dividends for the Rush. But the team will play stiff competition, including a Friday match with So Cal Blues, a Saturday date with Slammers and a Sunday tilt with San Diego Surf. Watch for North Carolina commit Lindsey Horan to make her mark on the games this weekend.