Xplosion makes national impression
Published 8:11 pm Thursday, July 16, 2015
The Churchland Soccer League Xplosion U16 girls’ team did not end up earning a national championship at the recent 2015 National Premier Leagues Finals in Westfield, Ind., but the squad likely earned some high-level respect.
The team, which features six Suffolk standouts, went 2-1 in pool play, beating a squad from Brentwood, N.Y. that is currently ranked No. 1 in the country.
“Basically, they went up there and proved they can compete with any team in the country,” Xplosion coach Mike Marston said of his players.
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At the conclusion of pool play in Flight A, his team was in a three-way tie for first place with a squad from Corona, Calif. and the team from Brentwood, N.Y. Had Xplosion scored one more goal in any of its games, it would have advanced to the semifinals.
Coming into the NPL Finals event, Marston was uncertain of how his team would compare to the elite U16 competition on the national stage, but he was certain of one thing about his players.
“They’re very competitive,” he said. “I was proud of the way that they battled.”
“I think we did well,” said forward Daijah Norris, a rising junior at Nansemond River High School. “It was an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Xplosion opened its pool play against the team from Corona on July 9, falling 3-2. Leigha Arcand of Isle of Wight scored both of Xplosion’s goals.
Marston stated that his team had an apparent game-tying goal with five minutes to go, but it was called back on a questionable offside call.
On Friday, Xplosion faced a team from Charlotte, N.C. and emerged with a 1-0 victory. The goal came from Norris.
Like Norris, defender Skylar Wall, a rising junior at King’s Fork High School, was pleased with how her team represented itself in the tournament.
“I think we did really good, especially in our last game,” she said. “We knew that we were going into a game that was going to be really hard, and we just worked together, and we just gave it our all.”
Xplosion defeated the squad from Brentwood, N.Y., 2-1.
Marston said he does not think the New York team is the best team in the country but noted it is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation among U16 girls’ teams according to GotSoccer.com, which he said is the most recognized ranking website in the U.S.
“It’s amazing,” Norris said of having beaten the No. 1-ranked team. “Not many people get to say that.”
She scored both of her team’s goals in the contest.
“The first one was a through ball through the back of the defense,” she said.
The second one was a bit of a reward for her persistence and aggressiveness. “The goalie dropped the ball as I was running to her, and I tapped it in,” she said.
Marston noted his team was shorthanded toward the end of its run in the NPL Finals because of two player ejections.
Nevertheless, the team pressed on, and all six Suffolk players made contributions.
“Cydney (Nichols) and Becca (Washburn) played the majority of every game,” Marston said of two rising juniors he also coaches at King’s Fork. “Daijah was our leading scorer.”
Nansemond River rising junior Kamarie Jewette and King’s Fork rising sophomore Hannah Marston helped facilitate Xplosion’s offense and keep the team organized on the field, he said.
He put Wall at left fullback to ease her back into the lineup after a recent injury. Following the player ejections, however, she had to return to the center against the Brentwood, N.Y., squad.
“She got a little baptism by fire, and she played really well in that last game,” he said.
Wall said, “When he put me on the outside, it was really different, it was out of my comfort zone, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to play, but I did my best and I tried, but when he put me back in the center, it felt like I could control the game a little bit better.”