AURORA — Back in the summer of 2013, a makeshift team of girls soccer players from around the area came together for FC Boulder without much training time and shocked the field at the National Premier Leagues Finals winning an 18U national title.
This year, the 17U team got the call to fill in at the tournament when another scheduled team qualified for another event. Although a national title wasn't in the cards for the FC Boulder '99 Girls Elite, they did excel in quite a similar situation at the Aurora Sports Park this weekend.
A youthful team — some only 15 years old playing way beyond their years — finished off pool play with a 2-1 record by defeating Crossfire United Oregon by a 4-2 mark. That record gave the group headed by coach Phil Hufstader a seventh place finish out of 14 teams, which by all measures was a great start given almost one month off from competition.
"It's hard getting called in with no training, and the other thing is we have a mix of our 15's playing with our 17's, so that definitely makes it difficult. But to come in and win two games at a national finals is awesome," Hufstader said after watching the team win their final two contests on back-to-back days. "It shows well for us. This is one of those tournaments where we can get seen on a national level, by college coaches and other programs. We get to compete against the toughest teams in the country."
This FC Boulder team is comprised entirely of girls that go or will go to either Broomfield, Monarch, Boulder, Fairview, Legacy, Erie or Mountain Range — proving that bitter rivalries can be cast aside soon after the spring prep slate finishes.
By the second half of Saturday's game, the team looked as if it had begun to really find some chemistry. Talented forwards Alia Mentzell (Boulder) and Alicia Cardenas (Erie) scored second half goals to break a 2-2 tie, and the defensive midfield and back line found a rhythm to keep possession and attack in FC Boulder's favor.
Allison Murphy-Pauletto, a Colorado State recruit from Boulder High, and Broomfield senior to-be Morgan Menees also scored goals for FC Boulder.
"This was a good performance, just minus a couple little things in the first half," Hufstader said. "We had some brilliant finishes."
The team had claimed a 3-2 victory over Austin Texans '99 Girls on Friday to rebound from a 4-0 Thursday loss at the hands of New Jersey FC Copa Academy (who made the semifinals).
"I think we realized that if we can come together as a team and play for each other that we can pretty much beat anybody," said Mentzell, who assisted on Cardenas' goal beautifully from the goal line. "It's been cool to see how we come together when we're put in some tough positions."
The team will be back in action at ASP again next week, as the venue hosts another prestigious tournament — the U.S. Club Soccer National Cup.
"This is really the beginning of the season for us, and it's a buildup toward the fall as our older ones finish out with us and look toward college," Hufstader said.