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Jun. 6, 2012

June 2-3 - This past weekend, the Freebird Ravens traveled to the Polo Grounds in south Kansas City to compete in the Salsa Soccer Tournament.  The Ravens rolled through their first three opponents by a 28-1 count, fully expecting a similar result in the championship final.  However, they would need to pull off a comeback for the ages - which they did in thrilling fashion - to win their first Salsa Soccer Tournament Championship!



Ravens 6, KC Sol 0

Saturday morning – The Ravens opened the tournament with a familiar opponent, the KC Sol.  Having never lost to the Sol in 4 previous games, the Ravens were confident and loose, and it showed early on as they jumped to a 2-0 halftime lead.  Taylor scored both goals, the first a blast off a sweet assist from Kintzli, and the second off a gorgeous kick-in from Kenzi.  The Ravens had several more chances to score, but just couldn't capitalize.  No matter.  Kenzi was in lockdown mode on defense, and Brianna was at the top of her game in goal.

In the second half, the Ravens quickly began to pull away.  Natalie B stepped up and finished on back-to-back goals, putting the Ravens up 4-0.  After a drop-ball won by Taylor,  Jayme gathered the ball and blasted a shot into the corner of the goal to make it 5-0.  Despite encountering overly physical play by the Sol, especially as the lead increased, the Ravens continued to play their game.  Taylor finished off a sweet hat trick by breaking away past the last Sol defender and ripping the ball past the keeper to make the final 6-0. 


Ravens 14, Futura Dolce 1

Saturday afternoon – After opening the tournament with a solid shutout win, the Ravens took the field against an overmatched team from the KC Metro League's B2 division.  Prior to the game, Coach Duke talked the girls about not worrying about the score, but to really focusing on improving their passing.  He also wanted them to feel free to use their skills.  For the most part, the Ravens did all of that, jumping out to an 11-0 halftime lead before cruising to a 14-1 victory.

TaylorDilyn, and Natalie B all scored early on, putting the Ravens ahead 3-0.  The youngest Raven, Abby K, then got into the act, as she assisted on Jayme's goal.  Turnabout was fair play as Jayme then assisted on a goal by Abby K, putting the Ravens up 5-0.  Kintzli blasted a shot past the keeper for her first goal of the tournament, and then Jericho followed suit with her first goal to make it 7-0 Ravens.  Then it was back to the Jayme and Abby K show, as Abby K assisted on another fantastic goal by Jayme.  The cat-quick Dilyn then finished off a stellar first half for the Ravens by scoring 3 consecutive goals, giving her 4 goals on the game.

In the second half, Coach Duke jumbled the lineup, attempting to keep the score under control against the young Dolce team.  Brianna left the goal with her shutout intact, and then decided to go on a scoring spree.  Off an assist from KintzliBrianna  scored to make it 12-0.  A shot by the Dolce took a bad hop and jumped into the goal, cutting the lead to 12-1, but Brianna quickly re-upped the lead.  Kintzli blasted a shot off the keeper, and Brianna took the rebound and blasted it home, making it 13-1.  Finally, with the Dolce goalkeeper attempting to win a ball out near midfield, Brianna stole the ball, dribbled a few feet, and sent a shot into the open goal, making the final 14-1.


Ravens 7, SSC Italia 0

Sunday morning – On a cloudy Sunday morning, the Ravens took on the undefeated KCML B2 champions from Lee's Summit, the SSC Italia.  With good size and a speedy forward up front, the Italia posed a decent threat against the Ravens.  However, they were no match for the Freebird squad, as they rolled to a 7-0 victory.

Jericho got things going with a low blast by the keeper to make it 1-0.  Next, Kintzli sent a rocket shot at the keeper, who deflected it back into the middle.  Abby K was there to knock it home, making it 2-0 Ravens.   Another deflection, this time off a Dilyn blast, was scooped up by Natalie B and deposited back into the Italia goal to make it 3-0 at halftime.

The second half was much like the first, as the Ravens offense continued to hum, while their defense stonewalled the Italia attack.  A Kenzi free kick was deflected off an Italia player for an own-goal, as it was credited to Natalie B who ran interference.  Natalie B then assisted on a sweet goal by Dilyn, increasing the Ravens lead to 5-0.  Natalie B then scored off a lovely assist from Taylor to make it 6-0.  Watching the Ravens pass the ball well brought a big smile to Coach Duke's face, and the Ravens were rolling and having fun.  With a few minutes left,  Jericho ended the game the way she began it, with another blast into the Italia goal, making the final 7-0.


Ravens 4, KC Sol 2

Sunday afternoon (Championship game) – The Ravens rolled into the championship game rematch against the Sol, fully expecting another easy victory.  However, this time around, the Sol would pull an early surprise, as their big #24 sent an absolute rocket shot into the upper corner of the Ravens goal, making it 1-0 Sol.  The Ravens shook it off, as they continued to dominate play with pinpoint passing and lockdown defense.  However, they couldn't seem to find that scoring touch, and the longer the Sol hung around, the more confident the underdogs became.  They also continued their overly physical play, much to the chagrin of the Ravens sideline.  On one play, a Ravens kick-in, Taylor was being jostled around by a Sol player until she finally bumped back.  The referee came over to talk to both girls, and for the most part, he did a good job throughout the game of calling fouls on the Sol's over-aggressive play.

Down 1-0 at halftime, Coach Duke asked the Ravens if they wanted this championship as much as the fired-up Sol team.  The Ravens responded emphatically with a loud "Yes!", but it was the Sol who seized the momentum early in the second half.  On one play, the Ravens failed to get back on defense, and an open Sol player knocked home a short range shot, putting the Ravens in a 2-0 hole.

At that point, Coach Duke decided to change things up offensively, going with a "speed" lineup up front.  With her size, speed, and aggressiveness, Jericho was moved up to mid-forward to counter the giant #24 of the Sol.  The lightning-fast Taylor was put on the left, while the second-fastest Raven, Abby K, was sent to the right side.  Immediately, the move paid dividends, as Brianna boomed a gorgeous punt past midfield on a quick Raven counterattack.  Abby K took the bouncing ball and sped past the Sol defense, poking it past the keeper to cut the lead to 2-1.  A minute later, Jericho dribbled through the Sol defense, racing into the open before blasting it past the keeper to tie the score at 2-2.  At that point, things were unraveling for the upset-minded Sol, as the Ravens looked to keep the momentum rolling.

The Ravens defensive stud, Kenzi, then blasted a gorgeous kick-in across the field to the far post.  Abby K was there to pick the ball out of the air and one-time it into the goal, giving the Ravens their first lead of the game, 3-2.   The Sol began to ratchet up their physical play, in an attempt to curb the sky blue wave that was overtaking them.  But the Ravens refused to let the cheap shots bother them, and it was Taylor who capped off the sweet comeback.  The speedy forward took the ball, outraced the Sol defense, and ripped a shot past the keeper to make the final 4-2!

Overall, Coach Duke was pleased with the effort and play all tournament long.  Though they almost slipped up in the championship game, Coach Duke thought it was an excellent learning experience for the team, and it certainly made for a dramatic final game.  All weekend long, Taylor brought speed, aggressiveness, and improved passing to the Ravens.  Kintzli had a very good tournament, showcasing improved passing skills, as evidenced by several wonderful assists.  Dilyn was a force all weekend long, showing tremendous fight despite her small stature, along with her peerless passing.  Jericho had herself an excellent tournament, coming up big offensively when the Ravens needed it most, but also giving fantastic minutes on defense.  Jayme showed true grit by standing up the the physical play of her opponents, and her wicked shot continues to be feared by every opponent.  Abby K, who lost a difficult Salsa Tournament championship game with the Skyhawks, provided the spark that helped the Ravens win their championship game.  Throughout the tournament, she displayed great speed, aggressiveness, and playmaking ability.  And finally, Kenzi once again showed that - if not the best - she's certainly one of the top U8 defenders in the metro.  Coach Duke also wouldn't trade goalkeeper Brianna for anyone, as she dominated with several outstanding saves and booming punts.  Overall, it was an excellent way to finish off a highly successful season for the Ravens.  Congratulations to the Freebird Ravens, the Salsa Soccer Tournament champions! 





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