Metuchen, NJ -- United Women’s Soccer experienced one of its most exciting weeks of the season, with playoff action getting started and key divisional races decided across the country.
Atlanta Fire United left little room for doubt, drubbing FC Birmingham 10-0 to earn a date with Atlanta Panthers in the Southeast Division title game. Kenna Kay led the way with a hat trick, and Carly Lentz and Ivey Crain each contributed two goals to the winning effort.
In this all-Peach State final, Atlanta Panthers emerged victorious with a dominating 5-0 victory over their local rivals. Candace West got the scoring started in the 18th minute, and two minutes later the advantage was doubled courtesy of Alexandra Ross. The onslaught continued until the halftime whistle, with Ross adding a second goal along with tallies from Cameryn Maddox and Kiera Staude to make it 5-0 before a storm caused the cancellation of the second half.
Olivia Thomas and Alexxis Lipsey combined to carry Corktown Hawks into the Central Conference semifinals. Both Thomas and Lipsey scored twice, as the Great Lakes Division regular-season champions easily brushed aside Nationals FC, 4-1. Jaden Frigerio also proved to be an important playmaker off the bench, contributing two assists to the effort. Sierra Curtis’ late consolation was the only marker for Nationals FC on the day.
Chicago Mustangs proved to be too much for St. Louis Scott Gallagher, as they turned their Midwest Division regular-season title into a berth in the Central Conference semifinals. Ainsley Ahmadian was the catalyst for the victors on the day. She scored the opener in the 25th minute, then provided some crucial insurance when she assisted Nina Nicosia for her 11th goal of the season just after halftime. Abbie Miller pulled one back for St. Louis SG, but Ahmadian was there again to ensure it didn’t impact the outcome, assisting Carol Soto for the third and final Chicago Mustangs goal.
The drama was unmatched in the Central Conference on Saturday, as Chicago Mustangs pulled out a 4-3 thriller to mark their place in the Central Conference Championship against KC Courage. It looked like Chicago Mustangs might be in for an easy victory when two early goals from Ainsley Ahmadian and a tally from Nina Nicosia paced them to a 3-0 lead after 32 minutes. But Corktown Hawks didn’t go away. Isabella Gaetino got them on the board right after halftime, and the momentum built from there. Alexxis Lipsey scored from a corner with 15 minutes to play to make it a one-goal deficit, and Abby Werthman completed the astounding comeback in the 79th minute to make it 3-3. But the job wasn’t finished, and Chicago Mustangs rebounded thanks to Ahmadian, who sent them to the title game by completing her hat trick in the 86th minute with an assist from Kaitlyn Cannon.
Michigan Jaguars and Corktown Hawks played to an entertaining 3-3 draw as the two sides closed out the regular season in the Central Conference. Olivia Thomas and Alexandra Karolak tallied in the first 15 minutes to put Corktown Hawks up 2-0 early. Kayla Rollins pulled one back for Michigan Jaguars in the 25th minute, but Emerson Lukomski responded to make it 3-1 in favor of Corktown Hawks heading into the break. The second half was controlled by Michigan Jaguars, however. Madison Salzenstein fired home to cut the deficit in half, and an 87th-minute penalty secured a point for the home side.
Keystone FC picked up its first UWS win and made a big statement at the same time on Wednesday, handing Coppermine United its first loss of the season. Halle Engle played a part in all three goals for Keystone FC, first assisting Sejla Podzic, then scoring herself in the 27th minute. Nia Christopher pulled one back for Coppermine United before the half, but Engle struck again in the 72nd minute to restore her side’s two-goal advantage.
Keystone FC picked up its second consecutive victory on Friday night when it defeated Paisley Athletic 2-0 in front of its home fans. The win came on the strength of a big second half by Gabriella Kurtas, who assisted Elaine Anderson for the opener in the 52nd minute, then scored herself shortly thereafter to double the advantage.
Coppermine United upended Lancaster Inferno’s perfect season by holding the Mid-Atlantic Division leaders to a 1-1 draw Friday. Leilanni Nesbeth’s penalty got Coppermine United on the scoresheet, but Jackie Richards’ response for Lancaster Inferno was vital as it meant the two sides would go into Sunday’s rematch with Coppermine United needing a victory to leapfrog Lancaster United to the top of the standings.
Coppermine United got the win it needed on Sunday, handing Lancaster Inferno its first defeat of the season by a 2-0 scoreline to win the Mid-Atlantic Division in its first season in UWS’ top tier. Rachel Jackson put the visitors on the scoreboard first in this game in the 33rd minute, then Nia Christopher provided an insurance goal 22 minutes after the halftime interval as Coppermine United secured a clean sheet and a remarkable achievement.
Paisley Athletic avenged its Friday defeat, routing Keystone FC 5-1 in the Sunday rematch between the two clubs. Skyler Matusz scored twice for the home side, with Natalie Melillo, Mackenzie Meixner and Samantha Gabriele also hitting the back of the net. Kari Powell managed the only goal of the game for Keystone FC.
Albany Rush secured a big 5-1 win over Scorpions SC on Tuesday to stay within striking distance of the East Conference Wild Card spot heading into weekend action. Katelyn Krohn had a game to remember, doubling her goal output for the season with four goals in a dominant showing. Sofia Eifler also scored and contributed an assist to the effort.
In an intense contest, NE Mutiny wrapped up its New England Division title with a win over CT Rush on the road. Alexie Rosado’s goal in the 14th minute put CT Rush ahead, and the home side held onto that lead until the 70th minute, when the champions finally broke through to tie the game. Riley Mutton’s penalty in the 75th minute put NE Mutiny ahead to stay.
CT Fusion goalkeeper Naya Lipkens made 10 vital saves to make a 67th-minute goal stand up, as her side claimed the three points necessary to claim the Wild Card spot in the East Conference Playoffs. Jenna Kalwa scored the decisive goal, volleying home a cross from Julia Nicholas to send her side to the postseason one year after they finished as UWS national runners-up.
NE Mutiny moved into the East Conference playoffs on a positive note with its 4-2 victory over Albany Rush. Toni Domingos and Alexis Legowski registered the first two goals of the game to put NE Mutiny ahead, but Albany Rush struck back with a two-goal burst of its own, thanks to Katelyn Krohn’s seventh and eighth goals of the season. NE Mutiny re-established control from there, though. Domingos assisted Hope Santaniello to give the hosts the lead back, and Riley Mutton converted a penalty to finish the scoring.
Worcester Smiles turned in a stout defensive performance in their final game of the season to take home their first point of the 2022 campaign, a result they will hope to use as a launching pad as they look to continue to make progress. CT Rush concluded its 2022 season with its seventh point in its last four games, ending on an upward swing after a difficult start.
Erie Commodores generated some last-minute magic to ensure they went into Saturday’s action with their playoff hopes still alive. FC Berlin held Erie Commodores scoreless until the 87th minute, when Ali Tobin received a cross from Oliva Dixon at the top of the box and fired home to give the home side a thrilling late winner.
FC Buffalo came from behind to claim a 4-1 win over Pittsburgh Hotspurs on Saturday to secure the Penn-NY Division crown. Sydney Patrick put Pittsburgh Hotspurs in front five minutes into the contest, but Ella Rudney fired home in the 19th minute to equalize. She then assisted Carissima Cutrona to put FC Buffalo ahead 2-1 at the break. Rudney continued her huge game with a second-half goal, and Tatyjana Scalisi rounded out the scoring.
Eliminated from playoff contention with FC Buffalo’s victory Saturday, Rochester Lancers still turned in an outstanding performance to close their season by defeating Erie Commodores 7-0. Brooke Barbuto was immense for the home side, scoring twice and adding two more assists. Caroline Kopp also found the back of the net twice, while Meghan Root, Kelsey DeLola and Hannah Knych each scored once in the win.
SA Athenians did their part on Friday, earning a businesslike 2-0 win over a solid Luxoria FC outfit to temporarily move into a tie at the top of the Southwest Division standings. Ashley Newland’s effort off a rebound in the game’s third minute put SA Athenians ahead right away, and Emma Ruiz converted a penalty early in the second half to ensure the final 45 minutes were comfortable for the hosts as they saw out their vital win.
FC Austin Elite needed only one point to secure the regular-season title in the Southwest Conference, and Ryann Hierholzer ensured the home side left with three. After a scoreless first half, she broke the ice in the 47th minute, then provided some insurance with a 75th-minute tally as FC Austin Elite posted its seventh clean sheet in 10 regular-season matches.
WilCo FC put on a solid goalscoring display in its final game of the season, defeating SA Runners 3-2. Iveth Guzman and Angelica Durland scored within the first 16 minutes to put SA Runners ahead 2-0, but WilCo FC took control after that. Lucy Ortiz found the back of the net twice in the span of 14 minutes to tie the game before halftime, and Holly Harwood fired home the winner in the 77th minute.
Luxoria FC concluded its solid first season in UWS with a straightforward 2-0 victory over SA Runners. Ellen Joss tallied both of the goals for the home side, scoring off a rebound in the 28th minute and finishing from a 1-on-1 situation in the 86th minute.
FC Arizona provided a good challenge to Foothills WFC's perfect season, but two goals from Sydney Remington allowed the visitors to pick up their 10th win in 10 regular-season games and enter the UWS National Championship on a roll. Remington’s header in the 12th minute began the scoring, and FC Arizona answered before halftime with Katrina Wetherall’s penalty. Remington converted a penalty of her own in the second half, though, and Foothills WFC made the trip back north with three points.
SC Blue Heat got the best of the second installment of this Southern California rivalry with a 4-1 victory to close out its season. Alyssa Thompson’s impact was felt all over the pitch, as she scored twice and added an assist as well. Helena Sampaio and Gisele Thompson rounded out the scoring for SC Blue Heat.
FC Arizona benefited from some late drama as it earned some revenge over Impact FC and concluded its first season in UWS with a win. Shaelyn McCarty put FC Arizona in front early, but Grace Mwasalla equalized before halftime. It seemed the points would be shared, but an 89th-minute own goal put FC Arizona in the win column.