SANTA CLARITA, CA - As the inaugural championship match of United Women’s Soccer (UWS) looked like it was going to go to penalty kicks, it took a special moment for it to be decided in double overtime. Julia Hernandez’s bicycle kick goal in the 119th minute was “muy especial” and the host Santa Clarita Blue Heat (5-1-3) would rise above New Jersey Copa F.C. (8-2-1) by a 2-1 score to win the 2016 UWS Championship. Hernandez would be named the Championship MVP for her two-goal effort.
The match started just the way it ended, with the West Conference champions on the front foot. Santa Clarita got on the score board first in the 9th minute when Kodi Lavrusky sent Hernandez in on a breakaway. She fired her shot past Copa goalkeeper Christiana Ogunsami for the 1-0 lead. The hosts almost went up by two goals just four minutes later. Arielle Roy’s header off a Kasandra Massey cross would go just wide of the right post.
The East champions would grow into the match as the half progressed. League-leading scorer Krystyna Freda had an opportunity to notch her 16th goal of the season in the 30th minute, but Blue Heat keeper Jojo McCaskill tipped her laser over the cross bar. Freda would have another chance just a minute later but her header would fly wide of the post. Ogunsami would rob Hernandez in the 38th minute and the score would remain at 1-0 for the hosts going into halftime.
As the second half progressed, Copa put more and more pressure on the Santa Clarita defense. Their persistence would be rewarded in the 73rd minute when NJCFC earned a penalty kick. Jeanine Nunez stepped up to the spot kick and while McCaskill got a hand on her shot, the ball still got past her dive into the side netting. Copa had the momentum on their side, but dangerous scoring chances by Freda and Nunez in second half stoppage time were stymied by the Blue Heat shot-stopper.
The first overtime period started out in favor of the East champions, with Freda and Nunez again testing McCaskill. In the 102nd minute, though, Santa Clarita would be awarded their own penalty kick but Kelsey Gudgeon’s shot from the spot would fly high over the crossbar. From there, it was Ogunsami who would take over the show in goal, making a one-handed save on a Mele French bid in the 106th minute and stopping a Hernandez scoring chance in the 112th minute.
With the championship match looking like it was going to go to penalty kicks, Hernandez conjured up a piece of magic. Off a corner kick, the ball would be headed out towards the back post by a NJCFC defender. Diana Redman one-timed the clearance back towards the front of goal and Hernandez deftly attempted a bicycle kick. Ogunsami got a hand on the shot but the ball fluttered into the net for the 2-1 final score.
NJCFC Starters: Ogunsami; Goncalves, Bates, Sullivan, Raber; Baxter, Bowen, Bruno, Bitzer; Nunez, Freda. Subs - Geonetti, Cummings, Lockwood, Stern, Nata, Leitner.
SCBH Starters: McCaskill; Miranda, Matulich, Toraya, Gudgeon; Castaneda, Villacorta, Roy; Hernandez, Massey, Lavrusky. Subs - Andrews, Kutscher, Redman, Caracioolo, French, Orocio, Ervik.