The Phoenix U12 girls’ soccer team froze out the competition at the Schwan’s USA Cup earlier this month.
The squad, comprised of players from the two Phoenix developmental squads, took home the title in the U12 Gold Division at the tournament in Blaine, Minn. from July 25 to 19. Phoenix took home a 3-1 record in pool play and was tied for first, had an equal goal differential with Minneapolis United Black, but lost out because United had one more tally than they did.
The No. 2 ranking still earned Phoenix a bye in the playoffs, and they dispatched the No. 3 LUFC Pumas 3-2 in the semifinals before ending the NSSA Blue Crew’s Cinderella run with two late goals from Jenna Kunkel in a 2-1 win. The Blue Crew was outscored 13-2 in four pool-play games before finding their game en route to the final.
Coach John Hudohmet, an East Kildonan resident, explained NSSA won the pregame coin flip, and opted to take the heavy wind to boost its attack early and tallied a goal.
"It was a good game, very competitive. The wind was a big factor," he said. "We tried to stay calm, and those last 10 minutes gave us a little bit of a murmur, but thankfully, we potted two and we won the game."
Phoenix dropped its first game of the tournament 2-1, but the coaches felt they played well enough to win, but a combination of nerves and bad luck kept the club out of the win column initially, said coach Gian Paolucci.
"How’d they respond? Quite well," Paolucci said, noting Phoenix clamped down defensively and won its next three games by shutout.
Paolucci’s daughter, Camilla, who plays for the team, was crying earlier in the game after taking a kick to the stomach and some frustration with how the game was going. She had instructions for Kunkel when she regained her wind.
"I was crying because everything was going on, and I said to Jenna ‘You better score,’" recalled Camilla. "And then she listened to me and scored."
Coming out victorious against a pool of American teams is an extra boost for the girls, the coaches said, as the American players can be six months to a year older than the Canadian players. American age levels are determined by the school year in which a player will turn a certain age, while it is based on the calendar year a player has a birthday here.
The respective Phoenix teams will continue their seasons in August, with playoffs slated for September. Paolucci’s team is 5-1, while Phoenix’s other entry, helmed by Chris Sirdar, is 3-2-1. Team Paolucci won its division in the Children’s Hospital Tournament and was a finalist in the Slurpee Cup earlier this season.