If it wasn't for a talented team from North Ohio, the Pipeline 02 Pre-Academy
Spirit might have been Girls Under 17 champions at the U.S. Youth Soccer nationals in Overland Park, Kansas last month.
The Maryland-based team fell twice to Cleveland FC in the competition, the final defeat being the national championship game.
Pipeline Spirit, a US Youth Soccer South Atlantic EDP Conference team that qualified for the tournament by winning the National League, started off the tournament on a winning note, taking second place in Group A to Cleveland.
The Spirit got off on the right foot on behind a 5-1 triumph over HMMS Eagle FC (PAE) as striker Baylee DeSmit converted a 25-minute hat-trick in the second half on July 23. After HMMS took a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute, Pipeline roared back with five unanswered goals. Midfielder Laney Cornelius equalized in the 20th minute before DeSmit took center stage with a natural hat-trick, connecting in the 48th, 53rd and 72 minutes. Cornelius closed out the scoring with a goal in the 85th minute.
A day later, Pipeline took on the juggernaut from Cleveland and suffered defeat, as the Ohio team tallied five times in the second half.
Pipeline bounced back with a 2-1 win over Nationals Union (Michigan) with two late goals on July 25, a result that clinched second place in the division to qualify the team for the semifinals. In that match, Megan Sidaway gave Nationals Union a 14th-minute lead before the Maryland side equalized on Cornelius' goal in the 76th minute and before midfielder Palina Jordan scored the game-winner six minutes later.
After a day of rest, Pipeline edged past Legends FC, from California, in dramatic fashion on midfielder Olivia Quaranta's 90th-minute goal on July 27.
In the final, Cleveland grabbed a 2-0 halftime lead and tallied four goals before Pipeline put a goal on the scoreboard.
Morgan Pentz lifted Cleveland into a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute, scoring an Olimpico goal -- directly off a corner kick. Some seven minutes later, the Ohio team made it 2-0 as Kylie Fitzgerald latched onto a through ball from Anspach. Anspach then scored in the 52nd minute after she forced a turnover in the defensive end for a three-goal advantage. Mary Felicia Santelli raised the margin to 4-0 five minutes later.
DeSmit, who led all goal-scorers in the age group with nine goals, converted a penalty kick in the 61st minute.
Cleveland, however, restored its four-goal margin in the 67th minute from atop the penalty area. In the 82nd minute, DeSmit made it two goals on the day as Pipeline went on to close out the game 6-2.
Sean Rush, founder of Pipeline was quoted as saying "It’s a great honor for the girls to play at the national championships especially at this stage of their high school."
"Santino (Quaranta, former MLS player) and I couldn’t be prouder of the girls and hope it’s a memory that last a lifetime”. Rush explained.
It's certain to be memorable indeed, as the Spirit will look to use this year's experience as motivation to take the 2020 title.