By Matthew Davis
Irondale junior Elsie Carlson had played club soccer for seven years and three USA Cup tournaments going into this year but never had a season like the one she just finished.
“We had a really rough season, but it was really cool to see how we all came together in the end for the USA Cup and got the championships,” Carlson said.
Carlson played midfield for a North Suburban Soccer Association U16 girls team, the Strikers, that took runner up in the U16 Silver “B” tournament of the USA Cup July 22. The Strikers, they came up short of a championship in a 2-1 shootout loss against the Wright County Storm.
While the Strikers battled it out for a title at the National Sports Center in Blaine, the NSSA Tsunamis U13 girls’ team also competed for a Silver “B” U13 girls bracket title at a nearby field simultaneously. The Tsunamis prevailed 1-0 over Fusion SC Schoenfelder.
“We really didn’t expect them to go all the way and win the championship,” said Tsunamis coach Jill Deuel, who had daughters, Heidi and Jolie, on both teams. She said that her husband, Dan, texted updates of the U16 game while U13 competed.
The Strikers season didn’t start off with a USA Cup championship appearance in mind when only 13-14 players were out for the team during the indoor season.
“I knew in January we were in trouble [for numbers],” Strikers coach Keith Gephart said.
Drawing from seven different schools also posed a challenge in meshing players. Carlson said a core of 4-5 the players, including herself, had been competing together awhile but the rest were new.
“I thought it was just cool to be able to have friends from all over, being able to get really close with them in a short amount of time,” Carlson said.
NSSA primarily draws from New Brighton, Mounds View, Shoreview, Roseville and North Oaks. The Strikers also had players from further away suburbs such as Lino Lakes and Blaine.
Momentum became clear for the Strikers with a 3-2 semifinal win over Lakes United FC Crossfire.
“When we won that game it was amazing to see how happy we all were,” Carlson said. “We did not think that we were going to get that far.”
The Strikers came into that game off a 3-0 win over Blaine White in the quarterfinals while Lakes United FC Crossfire rolled 7-1 over the Centennial Heat.
“We played really well, and we had lots of fun while we were playing, really kept up our spirits,” Carlson said.
It didn’t start off easy for the Strikers with a 1-2 record in pool play. ELA Elite downed the Strikers 3-0 July 18, and EPSC beat them 4-0 July 19. The Strikers didn’t win until the third day of the tournament, a 4-0 win over North Metro July 20. The NSSA team kept going regardless.
“They bought into” the philosophy “everybody’s in it for everybody else” all season, said Gephart of the team.
Tsunami of success for Deuels
Jill Deuel, one of three co-coaches for the Tsunamis, understood firsthand the road ahead for her daughters, Heidi and Jolie, at the USA Cup. As a youth, Jill Deuel competed in the tournament herself with NSSA.
“It’s kind of a legacy to have my daughters have that opportunity as well,” Deuel said.
Jolie Deuel served as one of the goalies for the Strikers and played in net for the shootout in the title game. Heidi Deuel played for the Tsunamis, which reached the final after beating Blaine White 4-2 in the semifinals.
After a 2-0 quarterfinal win over Park Valley United, it became clear to Jolie Deuel that the team could make it to the final.
“Matt [Melcher] and Aaron [Koslowski] are the two coaches who are really strong on formation and teaching the girls about different formations and how we respond to other teams,” Deuel said.
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