Canadians Storm Home over Freedom to win Parallel Cup

LAUDERHILL, Florida -- Lightning.  It can come in a bottle, it never strikes twice, and it sometimes delays the inevitable.

It is also quick, unpredictable, and highly dangerous.  As the USA Freedom and Canada Northern Lights found out, it can be your best friend or your worst enemy.  And just as fast as the Americans sprinted out to a big first quarter lead, their counterparts from up north struck back early and often, then were miserly about letting the Americans get any sniff of a victory.

In the end, the defending International Cup champions won their fifth Women’s Parallel Cup championship, defeating the USA 72-33 at Central Broward Regional Park and Stadium.

The game was delayed for 45 minutes due to lightning being detected by the weather sensor at the park just as the ladies were finishing their warmups.  Once the players were given the all clear, the game continued under humid and damp conditions.

The Northern Lights ladies had just five returning starters from their IC14 Grand Final lineup on the ground at Fort Lauderdale.  Still, they were not afraid of the Americans, and after pressuring the Freedom back line, they got their first goal from Jaclyn Halliday after five minutes.  That seemed to wake up the USA midfield, and they would answer back through Denver’s Lindsay Kastanek, who would take a great mark and then convert to level the scores.

Kastanek’s goal shifted momentum, and the midfielders started to put the clamps on and force Canada into mistakes.  A nice passage of play that included a smother by Janell Myers and a one-two from captain Hallie Lee and Brette Brower led to an open field mark by Kim Hemenway.  Hemenway would get the benefit of a 50-meter penalty assessed against Margo Legault for coming over the mark, and convert to give the Freedom the lead back.  Carly Smolak would open her American goal-scoring account and the Freedom were up 18-6.

Canada tried to end the quarter with a goal and again pushed forward.  Katie Klatt, also making her Freedom debut, was all over the back half of the field and made some great defensive saves.  Just when it looked like the first quarter would end with the Americans two goals to the good, the Northern Lights trapped the Freedom backline in their own back pocket.  Drea Casillas looked to find a wide open Lee across the field, but missed.  Lee kept the ball in play, and that allowed the Lights’ ruck, Danielle Comolli, to kick a centering ball an open Halliday who converted on her mark.  The Freedom had dominated play but were only up a goal at the first break.

Rain began to fall early in the second and would be off and on for the rest of the game.  That didn’t seem to faze either team, and the Americans would continue on the front foot, and again would double their led when a short kick by Emily Riehl found Cathy Hoha, who handballed it over to Hemenway who kicked her second and give the Freedom their two goal lead back.

But the Northern Lights would fight back, and the rest of the second quarter would define the result of the match.  Despite playing well, Klatt, Karen Stablein, and Brianne Theisen would find themselves spread thin on a couple of occasions.  This allowed the Canadians to run on and kick themselves out to the lead.  Valerie Moreau and Hilary Perry through themselves into the contests, and that would lead to Halliday’s third and fourth goals.  Canada would flex their muscles with Halliday, Danah Arnold, and Hayley Trevean creating more scoring chances in their offensive half before captain Marlena Ginnochio cashed in on a major to open up the lead a little more.

Down 33-24 at halftime, the Freedom looked to regroup against the defending International Cup champions and hope to take back some of the momentum that the Northern Lights had amassed.  It wouldn’t happen.

Continuing their ascendency into the second quarter, Moreau and company would work the ball into their offensive arc, where Jen Nicholls, Paula Willis, and Lia Vansevenant playing in her second game in as many nights, took control.  The Americans tried to return the pressure, and prepared by adding another defender back.  Melissa Armstrong and Jessica Gray continued to harry their opponents to force some chances, but when they got it forward it would come back at them.  Klatt, showing her leadership despite her inexperience, ran through and continued to provide options.

For all of their runs, however, the Freedom were still allowing chances in their own defensive end, and Moreau would put her stamp on the game by taking control of balls in her area.  Lee, despite winning the hitouts, would need to help out defensively, and even that wouldn’t be enough.  Willis would score her first ever international goal by picking up a crumb at the top of the goal square and threading the needle through hands and legs. 

A couple of counterattacks by the Americans, led by Smolak, would fizzle out, and the Northern Lights would be able to do what the Freedom couldn’t – hit on the break.  Kate Rankin found Montreal’s Elaine Gilmore, also playing game number two in night number two, who muscled away from Klatt to take an easy mark in the goal square and an easier goal.  Moreau, who would go on to win to game’s MVP aware, was again in the right spot and this time kicked truly to put the game seemingly out of reach.  Three-quarter time would see the Freedom shut out, and the Canadians up 59-24 with one finger on the cup.

Quarter number four would open with another Canadian goal, this one a checksider from Calgary’s Justine Stevens, who was hard at the ball the whole night.  But the Freedom never stopped fighting for the ball, and after roughly a forty minute drought, they would put points on the cash register.  They got a behind when the Hemenway, bidding for her third goal, had her attempt rushed through by Northern Lights fullback Ashley Gazley.  This would lead to a sustained American attack; a Lindsey Kastanek free kick led to Smolak earning a set shot in front when she was whacked high by a Canadian defender in the contest.  The Californian converted for her second goal, which gave the Freedom hope.

Klatt, Meyers, Jessica Estrada, and the rest of the Freedom dug in, and kept the fire going.  But time was running out, and the thick atmosphere of Florida in August was taking its toll on both teams.  And after only getting one more behind, the Northern Lights would matriculate the ball down the ground, leading to an open Jen Nicholls to apply the final score.  The final minutes would be a tug of war, but the Canadians would come home 39 point winners.

Despite getting outplayed by the champs, the Freedom fought hard from the ball up, and did well to stay with the Canadians through every contest.  Katie Klatt and Kim Hemenway were two of the hardest workers on the ground for the Americans; for Klatt, her first game should be a springboard to a great international footy career.   For the Northern Lights, the play of their rookies, including Halliday, Stevens, and Moreau, was the key.  They will be a dangerous team for years to come.

USA Freedom 3.0.18 4.0.24 4.0.24 5.3.33
Canada Northern Lights 2.0.12 5.3.33 9.5.59 11.6.72

USA: Hemenway 2, Smolak 2, Kastanek.
Canada: Halladay 4, Gilmore, Ginnochio, Moreau, Nicholls, Stevens, Wallis, Walshe

USA: Hemenway, Klatt, Myers
Canada: Halladay, Moreau, Stevens

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