They didn’t win a game in their first trip as 16-year-olds and underachieved as 17-year-olds the following year by finishing third, according to coach Dave Smith.
With most of the players now preparing for their sophomore year of college, they wanted to give it one last shot.
Based out of Kennesaw, Elite made it right on their third attempt and were crowned champions Sunday after beating So Cal Blues Dido 2-1 in the championship game.
Former Walker school goalie Alyse Scott, now playing at Auburn, won the Golden Glove award. Emily Sonnett, a Fellowship Christian graduate whose playing at Virginia, took MVP honors. Scott, Sonnett, former Lassiter High School standout Abby Lutzenkirchen (Alabama) and former Harrison player Brittney Reed (Kennesaw State) were among the top 11 players selected.
“We’re obviously excited to win the club’s first championship,” Smith said. “It’s a well-deserved thing for the girls who have worked hard since they were 11. They wanted to come back and make one last run.”
This group failed to win a single game in its first trip mostly because of the level of competition. When they went the following year, Smith said they had the potential to win it, but they failed to step up in pressure situations and had to settle for third.
But with a year of college soccer under their belts, the Elite were more mature and better equipped to perform under pressure. They played a three-game round robin in pool play and won their first two matches by a pair of 1-0 victories to earn a spot in the championship. They won by playing possession soccer, relying on making short passes up field, and scoring when they get the chance.
Although both wins were one-goal differentials but the Elite were in control for most of both games. Smith said that Scott and former Walton goalie Michel Fernandez were rarely tested.
After losing 2-1 to So Cal Blues Dido in their final pool game – they rested three to four of their top players — they bounced back against So Cal in the championship.
The Elite took a two-goal lead early against So Cal with Caroline Waters, an Etowah graduate who will play at Georgia in the fall, scoring the opener and Kelsey Nix of Roswell scoring the second.
So Cal got one goal back late before the defense held firm.
“You can tell one year of college helped a lot,” Smith said. “They were able to stay composed and calm, and they understood better how to handle the environment and how to make good decisions.”