GRANDVILLE, MI – Backed by a hat trick from Haley Crawford, Inferno Rush outlasted the defending UWS National Champions, Grand Rapids FC Women, 4-3 in the second semifinal of the 2018 UWS National Championship at Grandville High School.
“When Haley [Crawford] has a hat trick, you usually don’t have to worry about it,” said Inferno Rush Head Coach Francisco Cleaves, “but [Grand Rapids] is so offensive and we could not stop the crosses coming into the box. They had their chances to level the game and send it into overtime but the ball just bounced our way today.”
After a scoreless first quarter-hour, the teams ventured in a see-saw affair with both sides scoring twice during in a six-minute stretch. Cindy Lay gave Grand Rapids a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute as she followed up her own shot inside the area and hammered home the rebound. Inferno responded less than two minutes later as Tesa McKibben served in a ball from the right flank and Crawford finished off her first goal of the night.
In both of their Midwest Conference playoff games last week, GRFC showed great resolve every time they conceded a goal by scoring shortly after. Saturday was no different as they took the lead back in the 21st minute with a Morgan Otteson tally. But Inferno took a page out of the book of Grand Rapids as they equalized in the 23rd minute as again, it was the McKibben-to-Crawford connection working beautifully, with Crawford hammering home her second of the match.
Inferno took their chance to jump ahead as in the 29th minute, McKibben cut in on her right and ripped a shot from the top of the area past GRFC goalkeeper Lauren Kozal, giving her team a 3-2 lead. But the lead survived just 12 minutes as Lay headed home her second of the night in the 41st minute. The 3-3 halftime score was the most goals that either team had given up in a game through the regular and postseason.
After a six-goal first half, the teams didn’t waste time in getting back at the goal-scoring fun. In the 55th minute, Crawford completed her hat trick as after Grand Rapids failed to clear a Teresa Rook (Rynier) corner, she pounced on a loose rebound in the area to give Inferno a 4-3 lead, which ultimately ending up as the game-winner.
Grand Rapids got an opportunity to level the score in the 63rd minute as Lay got fouled in the box but veteran stalwart Marti Corby put her penalty kick wide to the goalie’s left, letting the Rush defense off the hook.
GRFC continued to push the tempo over the remaining minutes but the Inferno defense, despite giving up the most goals that they’ve allowed in any match up to this point in the season, held firm and saw out the result. Rush goalkeeper Kelly O’Brien also did her part in the second half and collected seven saves over the 90 minutes to preserve the win.
The win secures Inferno Rush’s first appearance in the UWS National Final as they will take on another UWS Final debutant, the Houston Aces. The match is scheduled to kick off at 6:30pm ET at Grandville High School in Grandville, MI on Sunday, July 22.
About United Women's Soccer:
UWS is a national women’s soccer league sanctioned by U.S. Soccer. UWS is a professionally operated league created for teams that meet high minimum standards. The season runs from May until the end of July, culminating in a National Championship match. The UWS player pool is comprised of college players, aspiring & former professionals and international stars. You can follow UWS on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Media can contact the UWS Communications office by e-mail at UWSPress@gmail.com. You can visit the league’s official website at UWSSoccer.com. Interested team applicants can contact League Commissioner Joe Ferrara, Jr. by e-mail at Joe@UWSSoccer.com.