The ASA Chesapeake Charge, top seeds in the WPSL’s Northeast Conference, were unable to muster enough offense to overcome the #4 CFC Passion, who prevailed, 2-1, in a match that went 120 minutes after being tied 1-1 in the regulation 90.
As is common in Charge matches, there was no scoring early, though not for want of chances. In the 25th minute, forward Allyson Swaby got through for the Passion, but central defender Jennifer Gillette – who had a monster game – made up the distance and knocked the ball out for a corner kick. Four minutes later, the Charge’s Katie Ponce sent a through ball to forward Cheyenne Skidmore, but her shot was saved by Elise Wilcox. Four minutes after that, the Charge had the makings of an attack with defender Nikki Boretti clearing the ball to Ali Andrzejewski, who sent the ball forward to Nia Walcott making a strong run on goal. But with two defenders on her she was unable to retain possession. In the 42nd minute, Skidmore crossed to Andrzejewski, but the ball was at the edge of her reach, and she could only toe-poke it toward goal, where Wilcox picked it up. The first half ended scoreless.
Five minutes into the second half Connecticut had a great-looking chance on a cross that goalkeeper Erin Quinn managed to redirect but not hold onto. The ball rolled into the goalmouth, but Boretti was there to clear it. In the 58th minute, Gillette made another slide tackle to stifle a CFC attack. Three minutes later, it was the Charge’s turn as Boretti fired a shot from distance that Wilcox had to leap to tip over the crossbar. In the 69th minute, Amira Walcott sent a through ball to Andrzejewski, who crossed it in from the right to the far post, where Sofia Read redirected it toward goal but right at Wilcox.
The drought was finally broken in the 71st minute when Andrzejewski sent a ball through to Skidmore on the right, who came in and from about 12 yards out fired the ball in over Wilcox’s left shoulder.
CFC’s Swaby got through again in the 77th minute, but Gillette was there again to clean up. Two minutes after that, fellow central defender Jess Hnatiuk let a forward through, but Gillette was again there with a clearance.
With eight minutes in regulation, though, Passion forward Julia Cipriano pressured Hnatiuk, who turned and attempted a short back pass to Quinn, who was coming out to face the challenge. But the pass wasn’t in a good direction for Quinn, who had to slide just to stop it. It bounced off her and to the onrushing Cipriano. Gillette was rushing in to try to clean things up yet again, but couldn’t get there in time, and Cipriano with Quinn on the ground had an easy putaway into the open net.
Two minutes later, Gillette thwarted Swaby for the third time.
In stoppage time, Skidmore fed Andrzejewski right in the goalmouth, but the ball was just behind her and went out for a goal kick.
Chesapeake looked to score two minutes in with Skidmore through, but a Connecticut defender caught up to her right as she shot and deflected the ball out. Three minutes later, Andrzejewski fought off multiple defenders to send a through ball ahead of both Read and Skidmore, but it was too strong for them to catch up to. In the 101st minute, Andrzejewski again fought off defenders to send a cross to Read, but her touch was weak and an easy pickup for Wilcox. The first overtime period ended with no further score.
Two minutes into the second overtime, and it was the Passion’s turn to go through. Jessica Becker came through on the left and for once Gillette was unable to clean up as she fired a shot past Quinn and in to give the visitors their first lead of the match.
Shortly there after, in the 109th minute, came the game’s controversy. Jess Hnatiuk took a free kick and sent it in. It looked to bounce off the crossbar, someone in the goalmouth, and then go in, but the referee claimed it went off the football crossbar and disallowed the score.
That was the end of chances for the Charge, who had trouble keeping possession late, and they were eliminated from the playoffs, a disappointing conclusion for a team that had hopes of a national championship.
In retrospect, though, such hopes seemed optimistic. The Charge have had trouble scoring for as long as I’ve been following them (going back to 2011). The addition of veteran Ali Andrzejewski – the leading scorer for the 2007 W-League champion Washington Freedom – helped a lot. But it wasn’t enough to make up for the loss of two of their key attacking players – Alexis Prior-Brown and Erica Suter – to preseason injuries. On top of that, their leading scorer this year, Marisa Kresge, had to return to the University of Wisconsin for training camp and was unavailable this weekend. And while the tying goal came down to an embarrassing defensive failure, you can’t expect to win by scoring just one goal.
It’s a bittersweet ending in particular for Jen Gillette, who was unquestionably the Charge’s Woman of the Match. She’s heading off to US Air Force Officer Training School to become a pilot and as a result figures this was the last season of her soccer career. It’s certainly not the way she wanted to go out, and it’s hard to imagine the Charge without one of their “Twin Towers” central defenders.
But on the whole it was a successful season, and I look forward to seeing them next year.