St. Louis, MO - The SLSG MO ECNL program wrapped up 'Phase One' of the season with all the teams in a great position to qualify for Nationals in Seattle, WA. Phase One began in August with a preseason camp at Principia College followed by the Midwest Regional Conference games on September 9th and 10th. Since then, the high school age groups have played eight games, while the youngest groups (04 and 05 birth years) have only played four games.
"After an awesome preseason, each group knew the goal was to be in the top three of the league standings going into Phase Two," said Ralph Richards, ECNL Director. "Knowing the first eight games were against four top clubs both home and away, we knew it wouldn't be easy. The challenge, along with the opposing clubs, was getting the right balance between training, scrimmages, travel and the actual games."
The U18/19's started the campaign where they left off from last season with a record of 8-0-0. The highlight of the season thus far was the comeback win at Vardar. "Being two goals down in fifteen minutes is not a small hole to get out of," said Richards. "However, this group of girls has already risen to the challenge and once again they showed amazing character to fight back and secure the three points."
The U17's and U15's groups are also sitting at the top of the conference with a record of 7-1-0. The U17's have scored 33 goals and only conceded six. "The girls are really focusing on having a complete game at both ends of the field,” added Richards. "The objective for this group to be more consistent at sustaining a 'bite' on the defensive side of the game whilst maintaining a calmness in the offensive half of the field."
The U15's coach, Scott McDoniel, is pleased and feels the team is in a good place at this part of the season. However, he knows there is still more from this group to find their 'best game.' "The group has shown great determination to reach their goals," said McDoniel. "The hard work the girls are putting forth in training—building relationships and chemistry—it is evident that more will come from this group."
thThe U16's are sitting behind an impressive Michigan Hawks squad with a record of 5-2-1. The Michigan Hawks supplied both defeats with the latest on Oct 8 at home. "The hardest aspect of the loss was not the defeat itself, but that the girls knew they couldn't put it right for another two weeks," said Richards. "This allowed for reflection and preparation for what we expected to be very physical games on the road at the end of the month against the Eclipse Clubs." The U16's would respond with two demanding performances against Eclipse to come away with four points.
The U14's and U13's will play a spread-out game schedule from September through the end of May. Both groups have a 100% record after two weekends of Midwest Regional Conference games. For these two groups, it is their first time in the ECNL. Last year the U14's were in the Pre-ECNL, but now they have officially joined the full competitive schedule and are enjoying the level of play. "I believe they are excited to be in the league and excited about being pushed through competition," said McDoniel. "I believe they are going to be very difficult to beat, especially because of their willingness to work hard on defense and their competitive toughness."
The U13's are at the earliest stage of their development process through the ECNL but seem well-developed from a technical development standpoint. "Each player loves the ball at her feet and they all have proven to make plays," said McDoniel. "Combining the technical talent with learning tactics, the group has been fun to watch and work with. I know I am not alone when I say I am excited to see what this group can do in years to come."
The ECNL program is now heading into “Phase Two” of the season. Phase Two continues to the end of the year with five more Midwest Regional Conference games and a national showcase event in Phoenix, AZ. As the ECNL Director, Ralph Richards knows the value and importance of this phase. "The months of November and December have their own challenges. The players, staff and families are excited for the holiday season, so creating the right environment for the girls it essential as the teams continue to strive forward in accomplishing both their individual and team goals," concluded Richards.
For more information about the ECNL program and the upcoming game schedule, CLICK HERE.