by Kevin Brown –
While many kids were enjoying August weekends at the beach or pool, the Sleepy Hollow Football Club, Blaze, traveled to Hershey, Pennsylvania to take on all comers in the Hershey Cup, U-13 Girls Soccer Division.
Even though Blaze has already won two Westchester Youth Soccer League (WYSL) Group 1 Championships over the past 12 months, and also won a tournament in Chelsea Piers in Stamford, this was the first time they played nationally ranked teams, and also the first time many had ever played 11 v 11 on a regulation field, rather than the smaller fields used in 9 v 9 by Girls U-12.
With newcomers Lilly Wurster, Kimmy Molina, Jhoselyn Pugo, and Samantha Mendieta joining the team, Blaze, under Coach John Sutherland and team Manager/Mom/Assistant Coach Annette O’Hanlon, showed up ready to prove something. Despite a short bench due to injuries and some players away on vacation, Blaze lit up the home team Berwick Raptors 3-0 in their first game. Team MVP Kayla Mcguigan scored the first goal unassisted, and in the second half newcomer Samantha Mendieta scored her first Blaze goal with Meghan O’Hanlon getting the assist. Sami Marvin netted the third goal off a fine pass by defenseman Ellie Fox.
With only a 90-minute rest between soccer games, Blaze summoned their all for their second round opponent, Ole Soccer Select Gray, a team from Connecticut who were playing their first game of the day. Down a goal, Blaze rallied furiously, battling fatigue and maintaining control of the ball for the remaining five minutes of the game. Julissa Casiano put in the tying goal and, with less than two minutes remaining, Kayla McGuigan fired the game winner off a perfectly timed forward pass by Kimmy Molina.
On Sunday, Blaze played an 8 a.m. game against the Fallston Travel Soccer Hurricanes, a strong team from Maryland. Undaunted, Blaze executed short crisp passes and demonstrated the great teamwork that they had been taught. Blaze scored four goals before the first half was half over and whipped up on Fallston, 6-0.
The final game of the tournament was against the Bellmore PAL Thunder, a team from Long Island with a strong defense. Using tremendous team speed and playing with incredible cohesion, Blaze won 6-1 to raise the 2019 Hershey Cup.
“Part of the process of building a successful team is not only all the hours of practice but it’s also the bonding that comes from traveling together, eating together as a team, and having fun together. It makes our players want to compete even harder for each other,” Coach Sutherland beamed.