After a summer of hard work, sweat and strain, Leah Selm and the Lou Fusz 2002 soccer team brought home some hardware.
The Lou Fusz 2002 team, coached by Sean O'Rourke, wrapped up a successful season Monday by defeating Campton SC 4-1 in the U17 National Premier League (NPL) finals in Denver.
“It feels pretty amazing because we worked all summer for this,” said Selm, a junior-to-be at Parkway West. “It's just really rewarding that all of our hard work paid off. It's just a great feeling. We all played for each other. We all helped each other.”
Lou Fusz beat Campton for its fourth win in five games behinf four first-half goals.
“I think Campton had trouble dealing with the speed on our wings. We got in behind them,” O'Rourke said. “You can tell when we're going to do well when we're getting in behind people. When we're forcing teams to face their own goal and chase us down, teams are going to struggle against us.”
Selm and Kaitlyn Nichols each found the back of the net once while Faith Rackers scored a pair of goals.
“Our momentum just carried us,” O'Rourke said. “One the fourth one, we free up our attacking center mid, Leah Selm, who is just a fantastic player. She had a one-on-one with the keeper and finished. If you look at three of our goals, we got behind them and were one-on-one with the keeper.”
Lou Fusz qualified for the knockout round with a 2-0, must-win result against LA Fire Red, followed by a 2-1 victory against GPS Elite (Ma.).
“We were all just so pumped for the game, so I think thank helped us come out so strong,” Selm said. “(It) really paid off and didn't make for too nerve-wracking of a game.”
O'Rourke said those earlier games prepared his squad for the final.
“The final was by far our best game,” O'Rourke said. “It was a complete performance. We dominated a couple of other games, but in this one, we finished our chances early. It really could have been 6-1, 7-1. We had four or five other chances we should have put away. The girls were just ready.”
Lou Fusz's defense was just as solid throughout the tournament, giving up just one goal per game.
“Everyone did their jobs and played really well,” O'Rourke said. “We got some tremendous play out of our keeper, Julia Mincher. She made a key PK stop in group play that helped us get through on (goal) differential. She then made another stop against Campton. Sure, we were up but if they make it 4-2 with a lot of time left, who knows what could happen. Everyone contributed, though, and that was a key. When we went to our bench, there was no drop off (in play).”
Lou Fusz has come together on and off the pitch, forming a bond that has enhanced its play.
“We had a lot of time with the team which made for a great bonding experience,” Selm said. “It was a lot of fun for us because we all grew really close. I think that really translated on the field. We all played really great together. I think it helps because when a team is playing great together, then you're able to play great as an individual.”
Fusz earned its way into the NPL national tournament by winning the NPL Central States league with a 6-0-1 record.
Despite the variance in age between the girls on the team, Lou Fusz has overcome each obstacle.
“The one thing about this team that is unique is that we're a mixed age group team,” O'Rourke said. “Even though we play 02, we have a mix of 02s and 03s. We have anywhere from going to be seniors to going to be sophomores on this team. We kept the team together all these years because they are friends and they enjoy playing together. We felt like we could still be competitive, we just didn't know how competitive. I think we've proven we can be successful.”
Other members of the team include: Kathleen Hilke, Regan Wade, Genevieve Francois, Maggie Duggan, Alexis Updike, Lillian Zehner, Jacqueline Nieters, Lauren DeGrand, Ashlyn Nichols, Elizabeth Bayer, Grace Clement and Kathleen Baumgartner.
Fusz wasn't the only local team to win a title at the event.
The Sporting St. Louis 2006 Academy team beat the Tonka (Minn.) Fusion 4-0 to capture the 13U girls title.