Space Coast United’s U-16 girls soccer team pulled off the incredible in July, capturing the 2021 National Cup XX Premier Division championship in Commerce City, CO following a string of tremendous victories.
“It was one of the best feelings in the world,” said forward Bree Ehmer of the experience.
The team captured the title after defeating the defending champion Arkansas Comets FC, whom they defeated 1-0 earlier in the tournament.
Ehmer put the team up 1-0 in the 10th minute after she was able to perfectly place a header off a corner kick into the back of the Arkansas net.
But championships don’t always come easy, and SCU had to overcome adversity late after conceding their only goal of the tournament to Arkansas in the waning minutes of the contest.
After a pair of overtime periods, the game went to a penalty kick shootout where goalkeeper Stephanie Burke stopped the first Comet attempt to immediately give SCU a boost. Conversely, SCU’s Piper Miller, Ehmer and Mackenzie Plemmons would make the team’s first three attempts in order.
Once again, Burke came up huge with another save on the fourth Arkansas penalty kick attempt, setting the stage for Taylor George to clinch the championship when she made the team’s fourth attempt.
“We luckily had been working on PKs since June because of all the tournaments that we went to so they knew their order, they knew if somebody was injured that this person was taking their spot so organizationally they knew what was happening,” said SCU head coach Mike Lord. “….Because we had a few injuries, because we had some absolute fatigued players, some girls just said ‘I’ll take her spot, I’ve got this’ and they went in and nailed it and then Stephanie Burke was brilliant in goal.”
Ehmer noted that the team found a resolve after Arkansas tied the score late in the final.
“We just put our heads down, rolled up our sleeves and pushed through it,” Ehmer said.
That could be due in large measure to the team’s impressive work ethic and mentality as they worked through both games and training during the season.
“This team is extremely competitive with one another. They all hate losing,” Lord said. “They want to be a team at Space Coast that’s remembered. They don’t just want to play at Space Coast, they want to raise the bar.”
They certainly did that with their play during the National Cup, where in addition to their two wins over Arkansas, they also defeated the Austin (TX) Sting by a 2-0 score and Salvo SC from Minnesota 3-0.
The team also captured victories prior to that with tournament wins in Orlando’s Alliance Cup and Florida Cup, the latter of which allowed them to qualify for the National Cup.
SCU also finished first in their division in the new Elite Clubs National League regional league (ECNL-RL) and in the regional championship of the ECNL-RL in Raleigh, NC. They also finished in the top spot in their division at the Jefferson Cup, which was held in Virginia.
Lord noted that the team’s success has opened up even more opportunities moving forward.
“I’m looking forward to another year,” Lord added. “….Every single team we play against is going to play us harder because of our successes. We’re going to be in higher-level tournaments this year so the bracketing will be a lot different so there are going to be a lot of individual challenges and physical challenges to overcome but I mean, to me, if we win more games than we lose, we’ve had a successful season.
“Somebody gets committed to college, I did my job. The wins will happen, the losses will happen but as long as they’re having a good time and they’re enjoying competing and being around each other, we’re good.”
In addition to Ehmer, Miller, Burke, Plemmons and George, the team’s roster includes: Andrea Toledo, Abigail Watson, Bianca Fontanin, JoHannah Peterson, Katie Glass, Madelyn Popilek, Makenzie Ellison, Mallory Forgatch, Miles Jenkins, Natalya Espling, Nina Lopez and Sophie Boss.