Crew Juniors Under-12 Girls West Gold claims first State Cup with incredible comebacks

Three consecutive come-from-behind victories lead the way to the title

There are comebacks, and then there is what the Crew Juniors Under-12 Girls West Gold pulled off on their way to claiming the first girls’ Ohio Youth Soccer Association State Cup championship for the Crew on Sunday

The “Cardiac Kids” came from behind in three straight matches over the last two weekends, including a comeback from four goals down in the championship match to win 6-5 over Toledo Football Academy Elite.

“We view this as another significant sign that the club’s efforts and vision are having a very positive impact on local player development,” said Andrew Arthurs, Senior Vice President of Soccer Business Development and Executive Director of Crew Juniors.

After a 4-0 win over the Westerville Classics Eagles on September 17 and a 3-1 victory against TFA Premier U-12 on October 5, the Crew youngsters needed to rally in the final match of group play to beat Celtic 01 White and advance to the following weekend’s semifinals. They did so, winning 3-2.

Then the real drama began. Down 2-0 to the Cincinnati United Premier team, Brooklyn Harris scored two goals and Reese Elliot scored another to make the score 3-3 at the end of regulation. After a 20-minute overtime period, the match remained tied. The girls converted all five of their penalty kicks to win a shootout 5-4 and advance to the championship.

The first half of the championship match would be the ultimate test of perseverance. After Harris scored the opening goal to go up 1-0, the Crew Juniors squad conceded five consecutive goals in a 10-minute span. A 30-yard volley by Natalie Hegg before halftime cut the deficit to 5-2 and started the comeback.

“Having scored three goals in the second half to come from behind in our last two games leading into the final helped us to start the second half of the final with surprising confidence,” said Tyler Thompson, Director of Operations for the Crew Youth, said.

Midway through the second half, Hegg scored on another long-range strike – this time from a free kick –and Harris scored her second goal of the match shortly after to cut TFA’s lead to one. With less than five minutes to play, Katie Stafford scored the equalizing goal. Still tied a minute into stoppage time, Emma Barthel intercepted a goal kick and with one touch scored the title-clinching tally.

The win moved the U-12 Girls West Gold team’s record to 18-1-2 this fall, with the only loss coming to the Michigan Hawks in early September.

“I've been blessed with a talented group of players, most of whom started playing with Crew Juniors at a young age,” Thompson said.

“More than half of the team started with us by age nine, which has allowed us to focus on their long term development for many years now. The tremendous resources that are available to us as part of the Crew Youth system have helped as this team has progressed from the local Columbus scene to become one of the elite teams in the region.”

As Crew Youth teams continue to do well in local, state and regional competitions, it shows that the club has taken the right approach to youth development. Though it is structured differently from the boys’ program, which feeds directly into the Academy, the girls’ program has taken tremendous strides in recent years thanks in large part to the efforts of directors such as Thompson.

“Our directors are extremely committed to providing the best experience and value for both boys and girls throughout Ohio – specifically, Tyler Thompson, Glen Tourville, Dave Merrick, and Kelly Snead have been leaders in building our ladies programming,” Arthurs said.