Aug. 2, 2008
Story courtesy of www.bluessoccerclub.com
Virginia Beach, Va. - Coming into Saturday night's W-League championship game, the FC Indiana Lionesses knew it would take the perfect game to defeat the Pali Blues Soccer Club, and for 82 minutes, that is exactly the game they played. Although the nerves of any Blues fan had to be on edge all night, a pair of late goals would give the Blues a tight 2-1 victory and the 2008 W-League crown.
"I have to give credit to FC Indiana for taking us out of our game," Blues head coach Charlie Naimo graciously stated following the season finale, his third title contest and second league championship as a coach. "Their players were fantastic, and all the credit in the world goes to them for such a class match."
On the pitch, the play of both clubs was at a very high level from the opening whistle. Blues captain Kendall Fletcher made a statement early and often that the back line was going to challenge every ball by asserting an aggressive approach to any action that came her way. The Blues saw their first legitimate opportunity come in the 25th minute when Wisconsin product Kara Kabellis nearly headed in a corner kick. The first half saw a shift in momentum in the final 15 minutes as a couple of hard shots off the feet of the FC Indiana attack nearly hit their target. Championship MVP Amy LePeilbet helped the Blues nearly gain the lead in the 45th minute when she struck a nice cross that midfielder Brittany Klein almost headed home. Although the game had seen a few chances for both sides, the scoreboard remained empty heading into the intermission at halftime.
When the second 45 started, FC Indiana came out aggressive, and their hard work paid off in the 48th minute. Former Mexico National Team midfielder Fatima Leyva put a nice strike on a corner kick, and fellow midfielder Jessica O'Rourke headed the ball into the back of the net to force the Blues into facing their first deficit of the season. Knowing that a goal against the Blues and standout goalkeeper Valerie Henderson was a tremendous feat in itself, FC Indiana began to fall back into a defensive alignment in an attempt to preserve their lead. The next time the Blues had a great opportunity was in the 79th minute when Fletcher delivered a nice cross to forward Danesha Adams, and the UCLA product nearly headed it past netminder Kristin Luckenbill. The forever-hustling Liz Bogus almost equalized three minutes later, but Luckenbill turned the shot away.
Heading into the final 10 minutes of the season, the Blues remained composed even though their time was very short. In the 83rd minute, they finally found their answer. Off a corner kick, forward Rosie Tantillo played a ball to LePeilbet, and the Arizona State product headed the ball into the back of the net, sending the Blues sideline into an uproar.
"When we scored that first goal, it was like an elephant just got knocked off my back," Naimo said in a postgame interview. "Amy LePeilbet has been a class defender all year, and it was great to see her get on the score sheet."
Luckily for the Blues faithful and an international audience on the Fox Soccer Channel, the drama was not yet finished. 2007 WPSL scoring champion Kandace Wilson sprinted down the left wing to beat a pair of defenders, and she tapped a beautiful chip to the middle of the box. Luckenbill bit on the ball a little early, and Italian striker Ilaria Pasqui slammed the ball home to give her team a 2-1 advantage and eventual win.
At the conclusion of the game, Naimo was quick to give credit to every player on the Blues roster.
"All of our reserves came on and helped us out tonight," he remarked. "The great depth of this team is the reason why were able to win this championship."
Heading into the offseason, many players on the Blues roster look to crack into the new Women's Professional Soccer league. Stay tuned to www.bluessoccerclub.com to keep an eye on what your favorite Blues player does next.