W-League Week in Review: Teams already racing toward playoffs

By Kaeley McEvoy

After the second weekend of W-League competition, each division of the league has begun its own competitive race towards the playoffs. After a sampling of games in its opening the weekend, the league finished the weekend of May 22 and
23 with more than 20 teams taking a progressive step towards or a small leap away from W-League glory.

One of the teams to advance towards their goal of W-League glory was the Rochester Ravens. On Sunday, May 22, the Ravens made history by winning their first game of the season for the first time in the franchise’s short history. Rochester forward Chelsea Kuss scored two goals for the Ravens to defeat their Canadian opponent the Toronto Lady Lynx, 2-1, at the Ontario Soccer Center. As the first game in Central Conference play, the Ravens lead the division with three points after their first win.

Also leading their division is Eastern Conference Atlantic Division favorite, the Atlanta Silverbacks. After last year’s 1-0 loss in the division final, the Charlotte Lady Eagles were very excited to get another shot at the dominating Silverbacks. On Friday, May 20, however, the Silverbacks wasted no time reminding the Lady Eagles why they constantly take on the role of bridesmaid to the four-time division champions. Ten minutes into play Atlanta star Alexa Newfield scored a penalty kick to get the ball rolling. A short 14 minutes later, Megan Tomlinson added a second goal for Atlanta off a cross from Newfield. Charlotte did have clear chances to equalize but a ball cleared off the goal line and a crossbar kept the Silverbacks in control for the remainder of the game.

On the other side of the Atlantic Division, another early goal allowed the Dayton Lady Lions to walk away victorious against the Virginia Beach Piranhas. After Dayton created several scoring opportunities only minutes into the match, early pressure broke down the Piranhas defense, forcing a loss of possession during the 10th minute of play. This dispossession on the left side allowed Lions midfielder Mandi Back to slot a through ball to forward Brittany Persaud to score in the top right corner of the goal. Piranha midfielder Samantha Hare was able to tie the game in the 22nd minutes off a beautiful header from Alyssa Wombwell’s corner. Dayton forward Ashley Botts notched the game-winner in the second half allowing the Lions to walk away with a win. Head Coach Mark Batman noted that he was proud of his teams’ victory. “Overall, it was great for the girls to get their first win in the W League. Even though we didn’t play to our potential for the entire match, I was proud of them for diggin in in the second half.”

Another proud coach in the Atlantic Division is Jen Woodle of the Fredericksburg Impact. An early goal and a solid defensive effort earned the first win in franchise history for the Impact with a 1-0 victory of the Northern Virginia Majestics in their debut game in the W-League this weekend.

In Western Conference play, this weekend served to underscore the high level of competition in the Western Conference as three teams, Vancouver Whitecaps, Pali Blues, and LA Strikers finished the weekend with six points. Hometown hero Sydney Leroux allowed the Vancouver Whitecaps to remain undefeated when she scored a goal late in the first half. After Tiffany Weimer sent Carrie Patterson into the right side of the 18, Leroux was able to slot a first-time finish five yards from the net. Leroux first played for the Whitecaps as a 15-year-old in 2005, this game-winning shot was her first-ever goal for the club.

The Pali Blues fought the Victoria Highlanders to a 2-1 victory on Saturday. Highlanders leading scorer from 2010, Liz Hansen, netted the first W-League goal in team history for Victoria, but it was not enough to keep the Blues at bay. A goal each from Tiffany McCarty and Anisa Guajardo gave the Blues the chance for Western Conference glory.

The LA Strikers are attempting to march forward towards Western Conference glory as well with the addition of a new head coach Demian Brown. After experiencing a 4-1 loss to Colorado Rush during and out of division contest this weekend, the Strikers management acted quickly to preserve their shot at the title. Under Brown, LA will face its next match on Sunday May 29 against the Santa Clarita Blue Heat, who earned a 2-1 victory against Victoria on Sunday.

Memorial Day weekend looks to be an ultra competitive weekend in W-League play. As women of D.C United prepare to make their W-League debut tonight against the New Jersey Wildcats and the Central Conference reigning champions Ottawa Fury make their league debut this weekend, it seems the long journey towards gaining glory in the W-League has just begun.