San Diego SeaLions Continue Streak into the WPSL Final Four
The San Diego SeaLions punched a ticket to the WPSL Final Four held next weekend in Westerville, Ohio, following a set of wins in the Western Regional Championships. The SeaLions face off against the Chicago Red Stars Reserves on Saturday as the San Diego side aims to continue its undefeated streak in the 2016 season.
WPSL Soccer News: Angelina Hix’s 85th minute goal gave the San Diego SeaLions a gritty come-from-behind 3-2 WPSL Western Regional Championship victory over the Seattle Sounders Women on Sunday afternoon, and a berth in the league’s Final Four next weekend, but Hix will be the first to argue that credit for the win goes to the entire SeaLions team.
“Our players refused to be intimidated by the Sounders’ storied name or franchise,” said San Diego head coach Jen Lalor. “We have our own history. And when the going got tough, we got going.”
San Diego started the game aggressively and it paid off as Marissa Everett (Oregon), with an assist from Hix (Mira Costa), opened the scoring in the 14th minute.
“We immediately began pushing forward,” Lalor added, “We didn’t want to sit back and wait. We wanted to keep the Sounders on their heels until we figured out their style and strengths.” That strategy enabled the SeaLions to hammer out 9 shots in the first half.
But Seattle took advantage with its counterattacks. Brie Hooks (Seattle Univ.) tied the match just three minutes later, and Kaycie Tillman (Eastside FC) scored in the 25th minute to put the Sounders ahead 2-1, and that’s how the first half ended.
It was only the second time San Diego has trailed in a match this season, and it was a wake-up call.
“As a good team should, Seattle capitalized,” SeaLions assistant coach Lu Snyder noted. “We adapted, began to mark them tighter, and were able to shut them down after that.” Indeed, the Sounders only mustered four shots the second half, although one of them required a dazzling diving save by San Diego goalkeeper and 2015 WPSL All-Star Kaycee Gunion (CSU – San Marcos).
In the 102-degree heat of the second half, the SeaLions’ fitness, character and toughness came into play. “We could easily have gotten frustrated as so many of our shots came so close yet missed. But we stayed focused.” Snyder said. “As the game wore on, Seattle’s attack collapsed. Our defense had won that battle.”
All that remained was for the SeaLions to score, and they piled on the pressure. They were rewarded for their effort in the 80th minute, when creative midfielder Rosie Tantillo-Colon (USC/FC Gold Pride) received a pass, dribbled around two Sounders defenders, and drilled a lazer shot, one of 19 for San Diego in the game, inside the near post to tie the game 2-2.
“We came out after halftime determined to work harder. And when Rosie scored the players realized that indeed, we can win this,” recalls Lalor. “It was simply a matter of doing it. Not a single one of our players quit, not one.”
Sure enough, five minutes later Hix scored the winner (her 10th goal this season) off an assist from Cassie Callahan (UCSD). The Sounders had nothing left in the tank.
The SeaLions (10-0-1), who won the WPSL championship in 2013, will play the 2015 defending WPSL champion Chicago Red Stars Reserves (9-0-1), an NWSL reserve club which advances from the WPSL Central Region, at 1:30 pm PST (4:30 pm EST) this Saturday at Otterbein University Memorial Stadium in Westerville, OH.
In the other semifinal, WPSL East Region winner and NWSL affiliate Washington Spirit Reserves (9-0-1) will face 2011 W-League champions Atlanta Silverbacks (8-0-0), who advance from the WPSL South Region. The winners battle for the WPSL National Championship on Sunday (July 31) at 11:00 am PST (2:00 pm EST).
Source/Photo Credit: San Diego SeaLions