August 15, 2021 2:00 PM (Hershey, PA) – In a fitting end to the tournament on Sunday, the Wildfire replayed the only team to beat them during the Tournament. A very tough Ukrainian Nationals team had beat them 3-0 in their first meeting, forcing the Wildfire to take the harder road back to the championship game knocking off the 1st place team from the other division (Deep Run Valley Sports out of Perkasie, PA) on Sunday morning.
As the game got underway, Abarbanel took the ball and launched it from mid-field almost over the goalies head before it was batted away. Minutes later, Santoni lofted the ball down the center to Abarbanel who beat two defenders to tip the ball off the goalie before going wide-right past the post. Eventually the Nationals had their own opportunities as they drove down the field to set up a corner kick which was kicked into the center scrum. Stone and Abarbanel both tried to clear but the ball was shot towards the left corner of the goal where McCutcheon pulled a nice save to prevent the goal.
At the 5’, Abarbanel’s pass to Wagner resulted in a trip on Wagner just outside the goal box to set up a free kick to be taken by Hengbuoy, which unfortunately bounced right off the top of the crossbar. For much of this game Santoni went head to head with one of the Nationals better players who had outrun and scored on them in the first game. The result was different this time as Santoni was locked in and could be found sprinting again and again down the field on any potential breakaways to intercept or clear the ball.
In the 10th minute, the Nationals set up another corner kick from the right side, only to be deflected and cleared by Hengbuoy within 10ft. as it traveled back up the pitch. A minute later, Frey drove up the left side of the field and passed to Wagner down the center who was tripped to set up another free kick. Hengbuoy took the shot again and this time it sailed perfectly right below the crossbar above the goalies fingertips to put the Wildfire up 1-0.
For much of the game the Nationals relied on an abundance of very long range throw-ins that placed the ball deep into the center of the field. But despite that, the defense held firm to this point. At the 15’, another opportunity for the Nationals happened on a push just outside the goal box to setup a free kick. The National player’s kick sailed high and bounced off the center of the crossbar to the left side of the goal box where a waiting National player slammed it in to make it 1-1.
It didn’t take long for the Wildfire to respond however as opportunities were had in the next few minutes. At the 17’, Santoni drove up the left side and tried to tip the ball to Blyden, but missed as Abarbanel wrestled control of it and almost made a shot as it bounced to the right of the goal. On the preceding goal kick, Wagner challenged her defender and the ball ended up rolling towards the side line. As both players jockeyed for position, Wagner was tripped, resulting in another free kick. Hengbuoy got the free kick and sent it high once again as it tipped off the fingertips of the goalie and Stone came in from the left side to slam it in the goal. (2-1)
In the 20th minute, the Nationals were awarded a free kick near mid-field which had the distance and the power to make it into the goal, but the aim was off and sailed past the post wide-right. At the 21’, another free kick opportunity for the Wildfire was had by Hengbuoy but bounced right off the goalie before it was cleared. A minute later, during a Nationals goal kick, Wagner challenged her defender again down the right side, grabbed the ball and almost got the cross where it was deflected to setup a corner. Abarbanel took the corner which sailed high and dropped on the left side of the goal box but no one was there for the tip in.
As the half was winding down, the Wildfire dads erected a canopy and walked it over to the girls bench to shield them from the sun which was beginning to heat up as the day went on.
During halftime the Wildfire coaches worked on adjustment and corrections and continued to inspire the girls to continue their level of play as they went back out onto the pitch for the 2nd half.
At the 27’ mark, the Nationals punted a ball from mid-field which produced a scare as McCutcheon had to quickly gain control of it and clear it just in the nick of time, as Nationals players were right there to crash the goal. During much of the match Baker’s defense against her opposing player was a hard fought battle. Both girls were playing very physical resulting in continued knock downs throughout the match.
At the 29’, the Nationals had back to back corners from the left side. The first one was high but batted away by Hengbuoy in the goal box. The second one was exactly the same trajectory but Hengbuoy was able to clear it to the side this time.
At about the 30’, Abarbanel drove down the right side and crossed it to Stone for a shot but the goalie was able to make the save. Shortly afterward the Nationals drove down the field as Baker tracked her player to the corner where it was crossed to center field. In a rare moment, Santoni missed the ball to clear, and had to double back quickly to send it out before 2 Nationals players were upon her.
A minute later, Abarbanel drove through 2 Nationals defenders for a shot before it was saved by the keeper. And in minute 32’, an incredible throw-in by the National team bounced right into the goal box as they tried to tip it into the goal before McCutcheon came up with a great save.
At the 33’ mark, Baker continued to battle with her defender and was able to steal the ball and drive it up to Wagner who was all alone for the shot but couldn’t get to it in time to take advantage. On the resulting throw in, Thomas sent the ball across for a shot, but no one was there to punt it in. On about the 36th minute, the Nationals had a free kick just outside the goal box which bounced into a batch of players fighting to get at it, but McCutcheon ran into the scrum and saved it. 2 minutes later on a similar situation, the Nationals would make a throw-in from the sidelines that made its way into the goal box. The play lasted for almost 10 seconds as the ball bounced around from player to player. At one point the ball rolled out to a waiting Nationals player who had a clear shot on goal but as they took it, McCutcheon stopped it, coming up with another big save for the day.
In the 38th minute, a shot by the Nationals from the right side rolled off the top of the crossbar before dropping back to the ground and being cleared by the Wildfire defense. As the game went on, the Wildfire defenders began to adapt to the onslaught of throw-ins into the center and at the 45’ mark, Thomas made a wonderful pass up the center to Abarbanel who beat her defenders and shot over the goalie’s head to make it 3-1.
As the whistle blew and the game ended, Wildfire girls cheered as they had come back to win the 2021 Hershey Cup.