Becky Koch and her Eclipse Select Elite 15U soccer team won a national championship in Virginia and turned around a week later and one another in Kansas.
Koch, a sophomore at Cary-Grove, helped her team win the Elite Club National League National Finals on July 10 to 15 in Richmond, Va. Only July 23 to 27 they won the United States Youth Soccer Association National Finals in Overland Park, Kan.
Koch said it wasn’t easy playing such important tournaments in back-to-back weeks.
“It was pretty tough. It was mentally and physically straining,” Koch said. “But we wanted it so bad nothing could stop us.”
A little more time to celebrate was a luxury the team couldn’t afford.
“We were all happy and celebrating and the next week we had to get right back at it again,” Koch said.
The Eclipse relied on defense in both tournaments, giving up two goals in the ECNL tournament and three in the USYSA, both in four games. Koch, a middle defender, said she likes the physicality of defense and also being able to get things going offensively.
“I like being able to tackle and being able to start the play up,” Koch said. “We’re a hard back line. We usually don’t let anything through.”
The Eclipse rolled to the ECNL championship, defeating teams from Texas, Pennsylvania, Idaho and Ohio by a combined 15-2. The USYSA tournament got off to a little rougher start with a 1-1 tie against the MSC Coyotes of Maryland.
With the Coyotes being the defending national champions, not winning was a little easier to take.
“At least we still had a shot,” Koch said.
Both the Coyotes and the Eclipse won their next two games, and the two were tied for a spot in the championship game. The winner was decided by penalty kicks, with the Eclipse winning, 3-1, to advance.
“We dread PKs because shooting the ball does not really prove your ability in a game,” Koch said.
Things didn’t get any easier in the championship game against the Ambassadors SC from Ohio. The Eclipse scored with just seven minutes left in regulation to tie the score, 1-1, and send it to overtime. In overtime, the Eclipse scored five minutes in and then added two more to win, 4-1.
“After we got that first goal in overtime the other team gave up and we just kept going,” Koch said. “When that happened I knew we were going to win.”
Koch said the strength of her team is its depth.
“We are the only team that had 18 players that come off the bench and be just as strong,” Koch said.
Koch has been playing on the Eclipse since she was 11, playing in the U12 age division. She said the experience has improved her game.
“I’ve grown so much mentally. I know I can take anything now,” Koch said. “I’m playing with the best of the best in practices. That makes us so much better.”
• Rob Smith is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.