Friday, July 26, 2013
BRADENTON, Fla. – Chioma Ubogagu’s solo effort in the 109th minute was the difference as the Pali Blues outlasted a resilient Washington Spirit Reserves side in the first semifinal of the 2013 W-League Championship presented by Nike at IMG Academy.
Ubogagu, set to be a junior at Stanford this fall, beat a defender to the outside after a feed from Ashley Nick and raced into the penalty area before tucking the ball into the far side of the goal for the winner. Pali, which lost a heartbreaker in the 2012 final vs. Ottawa, has advanced to Sunday’s final against the winner of Laval vs. Carolina Elite, set for 2:30 p.m. on USLnation.com.
Pali twice took the lead in regulation – the first time via a Nick goal in the 26th minute off an assist from Daphne Corboz and later on a Katie Stengel goal in the 65th – but Washington found a way back late in each half.
U.S. U17 Women’s National Team star Andi Sullivan evened the score in the 43rd minute after Nick’s opener, beating three Pali players up the center of the field from her center back slot and blasting a knuckleball from 22 yards that fooled Pali keeper Anna Maria Piccarelli.
Pali seemed in control once again following Stengel’s tally, and after Ubogagu and Mele French missed golden chances to seal the game, the Spirit Reserves forced extra time when Hayley Siegel served up a cross that Monica Mendes was able to knock in just before the end of regulation.
Pali dug down in the 90+-degree Florida heat during extra time and produced several chances, with Nick and Stengel shooting wide and Stengel hitting the crossbar before Ubogagu’s heroics.
“I’m obviously proud of the effort, the resilience, but it digs down deep into your soul when you have the game won and you give up a late one,” Blues Head Coach Charlie Naimo said. “It was beginning to feel like the Ottawa game last year which scared me, but to their credit they took the punches and they’re proving that they’re peaking at the right time to want to be champions.”