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RSL Falls In Southern Regionals Quarterfinals

June 26, 2008

RSL Florida’s girls under-16 team conceded a first half penalty, and then a second within the first minute of the second half as it fell 3-0 to the AFC Lightning from Atlanta in the quarterfinals of the Southern Regionals Soccer Championships on Monday night.

15 minutes into the first half, RSL goalkeeper Jordan Hatton challenged a Lightning forward for a 50/50 ball. After a collision between the players the referee awarded a penalty, which the Lightning converted. The score remained the same until halftime, but despite being down, RSL coach Jim Cote said his team thought they were still in the game.

“I think they played a little timid,” Cote said. “At halftime we talked to them, and the girls agreed they thought they could get this done.”

Those thoughts took a big hit 30 seconds into the second half, when Hatton mishandled the wet ball on a cross, putting the Lightning up 2-0. From there, RSL pushed players forward, but weren’t able to pull a goal back despite hitting the crossbar twice and having two chances cleared off the Lightning’s goalline. The Lightning added a third goal on the counter-attack late on.

“We played well, it was just one of those days when it wasn’t going to be our day,” Cote said. “They were a very good team, and you can’t give away two goals like that and put yourself in that kind of hole against a quality, top-5 team in the region.

“Jordan’s been great all year through state cup she only gave up six goals in nine games, and you can’t fault her, it was just one of those days.”

The trip was the under-16’s first to the regional tournament, after winning the state title last month. Cote said he was pleased with the progress they had made, becoming the first RSL team to advance past the group stage of the regional tournament.

“I think the big thing is they have a level of belief, a true belief that they can win any time they play,” Cote said. “Last year when we lost to First Coast in the [State Cup quarterfinals], they were thought of as the best team in Florida, and we’d never beaten them. After that game we felt that if we’d play them again, we’d beat them, and the same thing yesterday we played an AFC Lightning team, we didn’t play our best but we were still competitive. I think they walked away yesterday thinking ‘we can play with anybody in the country’, and I think that motivation is going to pull them through.”

The under-16’s and the rest of RSL’s teams will now focus on qualification for the USL Super-Y Nationals from the Southeast District beginning in two weeks.