After an undefeated regular season where they finished with a +22 goal differential, the Sounders Women made it to and competed in the 2018 WPSL National Championship last weekend. Facing Pensacola FC in a scorching hot championship match, Sounders Women finished right where they started the season — with a 3-1 win.
Getting to that game wasn’t an easy ride. The WPSL championship tournament takes place over a three-day period, and this year was held in Norman, Oklahoma — not the coolest place in the U.S. in July. Sounders Women started with a semifinal win on Saturday against Fire and Ice, the defending WPSL National Champions. Temperatures in that match were in the 100’s.
A lone goal from Mireya Grey was all the team needed to advance to the championship game against Pensacola FC, who also went undefeated on the season and entered the match with an equally impressive +15 goal differential.
On Sunday, July 22, Sounders Women found themselves ahead in the 9th minute when Grey sent a ball on the ground from the right flank, where an awaiting Georgia Cloepfil back-heeled the ball to Kirsten Pavlisko, an incoming Florida State freshman who hit a one-time shot into goal. Unfortunately, Pensacola FC answered almost immediately on a corner kick in the 11th minute. The score would remain even as the teams went to the halftime break.
The second half featured some of the Sounders Women’s trademark stalwart defense — giving Pensacola FC few opportunities to threaten on goal. The opportunities that did enter Seattle’s defensive third were quickly snagged by goalkeeper Jaelyn Cunningham.
Seattle Reign FC draftee Celia Jimenez Delgado, who has been a breakout player for Sounders Women, would score the game-winning goal in the 55th minute — connecting with a cross in the air from Cloepfil. After getting drafted by Reign FC, Delgado remained in college to finish up her degree, making her unavailable at the start of NWSL season. She looks to be a promising option for the roster next season.
Delgado is a member of the Spanish National Team who played in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She played right outside back or right wingback for Spain and in college for Alabama, but was pushed higher up the field often for Sounders Women.
In the waning minutes of extra time, Pascale Dumensil won a challenge outside of the Pensacola box, dribbled forward, and finished a shot into the lower left corner of the net. The final score would stand at 3-1, with the Sounders Women winning the 2018 WPSL National Championship — the club’s first since joining the WPSL in 2016.
“It’s an incredible feeling, a long journey but a journey I don’t want to end.” Sounders coach Scott Ford said. “It’s a special feeling.”
The Sounders U23 and Sounders Women teams are owned and operated by owners Lane Smith, Cliff McElroy, and Mike Jennings. Sounders Women play in the WPSL, which aims to provide the highest level of developmental opportunities for amateur players in the U.S. Entering its 21st season, the WPSL has grown to more than 100 clubs and is the largest women’s soccer league in the world. Team rosters consist of skilled players from collegiate, post-collegiate, international and standout prep athletes.