Special to the
The Opelika Crush Soccer Club finished up the fall club season setting club records with six teams qualifying for the championship tournament, two champions and five teams advancing to the championship Sunday.
Coach Eric Faison’s U15 Girls, who won the state cup last year came into the tournament as the #2 seed, finishing the regular season 4-1-1. In the semi-finals, Opelika faced the Gulf Coast Rangers out of Mobile/Daphne and won 2-0 pushing them to the championship game where they faced BUSA Alabaster. Alabaster led 1-0 until Scarlett Podasas beat the goalkeeper with the equalizer in the 62nd minute. The score remained 1-1 at the end of regulation sending the game to extra time. With fewer than 30 seconds in the final period of extra time, Alabaster found the back of the net ending Opelika’s run to a second-straight state championship.
After failing to qualify last year, the U15 boys came into the tournament as the #5 seed, with a 5-2-1 record. After winning 4-1 in the first round, they faced the #1 seed and previously unbeaten BUSA Alabaster team in the semi-finals and won, 6-1 with goals coming from Austin Marlin, Dexter Graham (two) Andy Roberts and Carson Long (two) to advance to the championship game where they fell to Briarwood soccer club 1-0. Jaxon Kerley had 14 saves during the course of the tournament.
The U19 boys in the second division coached by Ed Conwell entered the tournament as the second seed with a 5-1 record. In the semi-finals, they beat Birmingham United 2-0 with two goals from Tyler Suggs assisted by Haydn Schwind and Ian Costello. In the championship game, the boys faced Tuscaloosa Soccer Club. Senior Taylor Ransom scored a hat trick and Ryley Sims scored the fourth goal to give the team a 4-1 win in the championship game.
The U16 boys had a dream season after failing to qualify for the tournament last year. This season, they went undefeated through league play with an 8-0-1 record and scored 4.2 goals per game and headed into the tournament as the #1 seed. With a first-round bye, they drew Huntsville FC in the first round who advanced to the semi-finals with a 3-0 win over Prattville United. In the semi-finals, Opelika got goals from Dylan Millar and Ayden Green to advance to the championship with a 2-1 victory. In the championship game, Opelika faced the #2 seed Shoals Soccer Club whose only defeat was to Opelika in the first game of the season. For the first time in the season, Opelika was held scoreless and fell 3-0.
The U19 boys in the top division finished the season with a perfect 8-0 record for a second-straight season and went into the tournament as the #1 seed. Coach Steve Charlot had his team prepared this year for another run. In the semi-finals, they faced Marshall United FC and doubled their season 3.5 scoring average with a 7-2-win. Charlie Garcia had four goals, while Dima Hawkins, Johnathan Mendoza and Israel Zuinga each had one. In the finals, Opelika faced River City United out of Madison, Alabama. Opelika dominated possession and managed to outshoot River City 18–3, yet Garcia was the only player to find the back of the net in a 1-0 victory. Grant Parham had the clean sheet in the championship game with three saves.
The only team advancing to the tournament not to make the championship game was the U19 Girls competing in the top bracket, instead placing third in the tournament with a consolation victory over the Briarwood Soccer Club.