(CORONA, CA) -- The San Diego SeaLions return to the WPSL Final Four this weekend for the second consecutive season and the third time in the last five years. And they feel they have something to prove. In 2013 they won the national title; last season they lost a tough final match to the Boston Breakers’ Reserve club. A match which the SeaLions feel they could have won.
“Last year we had confidence and quality, and each player believed we were good enough to win the title,” says San Diego head coach Jen Lalor. “But we came up short. This year we have confidence and quality, yes, but we also have desire, a deep desire that comes from the belief that we fell short of our potential last season, a desire for redemption.”
It’s never easy in the 104-team WPSL. Each of this season’s Final Four regional champions is undefeated. The SeaLions (11-0-1) will face off Saturday evening against Midwest champions Fire & Ice Soccer Club from longtime soccer hotbed St. Louis. Meanwhile, 2016 WPSL champions Boston (9-0-0), also return to the Final Four and will play WPSL South Champions Gulf Coast Texans (8-0-2) in the other semi-final match.
“It’s no secret that we would enjoy the opportunity to redeem ourselves in a rematch against Boston,” added SeaLions assistant coach Lu Snyder. “But we are always focused on the next game, and Fire & Ice is a battle-tested, experienced, methodical club. Our match against them will have the quality and feel of a championship game.”
Indeed, Fire & Ice (10-0-0), behind solid defense and goalkeeper Kindra Lierz (SEMO), has yielded just three goals in 2017, by far the WPSL’s fewest, while scoring 34, including twelve by forward Kailey Utley (W.Virginia U) and six, along with seven assists, from Hannah Kimsey (Concordia).
“We decided at the beginning of the season that we were going to put in whatever work was needed to get us to the Final Four,” says Fire & Ice owner and head coach Lindsay Kennedy Eversmeyer. “We joined the WPSL five years ago and quickly realized that the teams that train the hardest, play with the most heart and make the fewest mistakes are the ones that come out on top. So we focus at practice on fitness, game-situations, and speed of play. And on resourcefulness.”
Meanwhile, the SeaLions are coming off a hard-fought 3-1 victory over perennial WPSL power Seattle Sounders and a 6-0 easy drubbing of L.A. Beach FC in the West Regional finals last weekend. Fourteen SeaLions have found the back of the nets 43 times in 2017, led by Angelina Hix’s (MiraCosta) nine goals and /Elise Britt’s (UCLA) six. Co-captain Rosie Tantillo-Colon (USC) has contributed five assists and three goals, while her other co-captain, Kaycee Gunion (CSU-San Marcos), is again among the league-leading goalkeepers with a microscopic 0.55 goals-against average over San Diego’s eleven matches.
“Our SeaLions are peaking at the right time,” noted San Diego assistant coach Paul Wright. “They’re playing the best soccer of the season so far, and we have the heart to do what’s necessary to win. We’ve worked hard and I’m confident that hard work will pay off.”