IC17: Freedom, Liberty Set Records, Revos with Work to Do

It went without saying that the two games on this weekend for the two American IC17 clubs would go a long way to determining their chances at playing at the large AFL stadia that house the affections of footy fans in this city.

The Revolution men’s side fell to a speedy, physical, and opportunistic Papua New Guinea outfit on Saturday.  24 hours later, the Freedom ladies scored a decisive victory on a talented but still developing European Crusaders team, which was immediately proceeded by a big win by the Liberty to make Sunday a memorable day for the American women’s program.

USA FREEDOM 19.13.127 def EUROPEAN CRUSADERS 0.0.0

Coming into the game, the Freedom knew they needed a strong victory to assure themselves a spot in the semifinals.  The Crusaders hadn’t scored at all in their first two matches against Ireland and PNG.  They came to Tin Alley, the nickname for Melbourne University Oval, looking to change that.

The Freedom defenders would see that the blue and gold clad conglomerate would remain scoreless.

From the opening minutes when Jess Estrada slammed home the first of five goals on the afternoon, it was apparent as to who the better team was.  Having only met each other a week ago, the Crusaders tried to parlay their splendid solos into an ensemble piece, but Estrada, Carly Smolak, and Cathy Hoha were too cunning, and found open spots.  Hoha had the only real blemish for the Americans, as she missed a kick from dead in front.  Nonetheless, the Freedom had hung 52 on the Cru, easily the highest scoring quarter in their history.

Control of play stayed with the Americans in the second quarter, and defenders Bevin English and Rosie Kloh, led in the backliners in continuing to stifle the European attack.  Crusader rover Amanda King, who rucks for the Boston Lady Demons and was a familiar sight to the East Coast Freedom players, was the main sparkplug for her team in the second.  The Crusader defenders kept the forwards more in check, but Estrada put up a highlight reel goal early in the first half, and Kim Hemenway added her name to the ledger.  The score crept up to 79-0 at the main break, and the Freedom remained in control.

Colene Duquet and the Crusader defenders had their best quarter in the third, as the Freedom could only muster two more goals.  Still, the defense did their job.  Brette Brower, inserted at ruck in place of the injured Hallie Kastanek, won more hitouts than not, and helped work the ball forward.  Lindsay Kastanek took some key marks in the forward line, and kept forward momentum with a 95-0 lead.  Kastanek, Hemenway, and Oanh Nguyen got up and about in the third quarter, and continued to pepper the Crusaders goal.  The Europeans’ resolve stayed with them through the end of the game, but it didn’t translate to any points.

At the final call of the moose with the bad sinus infection (because that’s what the siren at Uni Oval sounded like), the USA had set team records for most points in a game with 127, most goals in a game with 19, and biggest margin of victory at 127 points.  It was also the fourth shutout by the Freedom in their IC history.  The Crusaders, who head to the consolation bracket against competition that they’ll find they match up well against, played the game with incredible spirit, and one feels that they’ll be an innumerably better side in 2020.

But for the Freedom, the win, coupled with Ireland’s win over PNG, means they finish second in Pool B at 2-1.  Their semi-final match pits them with an old foe: Coach Jason Arnold and the Canadians.  They’re all that stands in the way between the Freedom and their first ever trip to the IC Grand Final, and though their rivals to the north have had their number, the Northern Lights will be a competitive foe for the Americans.  Should they defeat Canada, the Freedom will head to Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon with a chance to become IC champions.

USA REVOLUTION 8.7.55 def by PNG MOSQUITOES 15.2.92

Saturdays in Montrose are reserved for footy at the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, and the crowd that gathered to see the USA and PNG were treated to an all out war between a team that had made it to every Grand Final since the comp’s inception in 2002, and a team that was looking for a win to put themselves in the driver’s seat for their first.

From the moment that the Papua New Guineans launched into their war dance after the playing of the national anthems, the gauntlet was thrown.  Clyde Simpson opened the scoring after 45 seconds for the Americans, but Amua Mizza Pirika, who had connected for four against Nauru, answered just a minute later.  Jay Levesque put the Revos on top, but Pirika levelled the score again on another free kick.  The game in the opening quarter was part track meet, part mosh pit.  PNG got a goal late in the term to go up 18-13, and emotions spilled over when a small fracas broke out after the siren.  The result was that two Mosquitoes would be yellow carded, meaning that the Americans would play up two men when the second quarter started.

Jason Wilhelm dominated the ruck for most of the game, but PNG’s on-ballers were quick to claim the hitouts, and also quick to play on after stopages.  Bryan Dragus made a habit of frustrating the PNG defense, and got on the scoreboard, moving through the auspices of Dave Restrepo and Clyde Simpson. The Mozzies waded out the two-man disadvantage, and Pirika began to find space, as did Katha Siwee, and both kicked true to extend their lead.  The defenders stepped up a bit here, with Saleh Tyebjee taking some classic marks, as well as defender Jeff Kraemer.  Hewago Oea would goal at the end of the half, however, and the Revos were down 11 at the major break, 37-26 with Tom Ellis left to sort out how his team was going to come back.

Quarter number three is proverbially called the premiership quarter, and for a team that was trying to keep its finals hopes alive, PNG sprung to life.  Taking advantage of a bit of separation that they were finding against the American defenders, Oea and Pirika doused the game on fire and took opportunity after opportunity.  Despite the best efforts of the Americans, and with the height disadvantage to boot, the PNG midfielders dipped and dunked the ball over the top for easy marks, which they converted into goals.  PNG had grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck and given it a big wet sloppy kiss, and were looking comfortable at 67-35 at 3QT.  The Revos were not discouraged, as they were playing good football, but with the Mozzies having kicked 11.1 at this point, their class was unmistakable.

Pirika would go on to kick seven majors for the game and celebrate by counting them off to the crowd.  The Revos, wanting to salvage something from the game, and to keep their percentage gap at a reasonable level, put in a finishing kick with all of the desperation of a nerd desperately seeking out the newest iPhone.  Kyle Johnson kicked a captain’s goal, and John Freeman connected on his second, both showing the heart of mountain lions.  The defense never gave up, and Saleh Tyebjee took the mark of the day with a one handed screamer on defense.  

The Mosquitoes were 92-55 winners, but Tom Ellis was happy with his team showing the unwavering courage of standing up to a psychical team.

USA LIBERTY 15.18.108 def WEST BRUNSWICK 1.0.6

For the first time on their Australian tour, the USA Liberty controlled the flow of play for most of the game, and against the Magpies, allowed only a hand’s worth of entries inside their defensive 50 meter arc.  Jumping out to a 14 point lead, West Brunswick got their only points of the game when two 50 meter penalties brought Freya Logan in front of goals for an easy set shot.

The Liberty’s forward line took control of the game in the second quarter and stretched things out to a 33-6 lead, though they had only converted for major scores on four of their scoring shots.  It became target practice in the third term, as Clare Algozin, Leilani Silvio, Robin Leslie, Jessica Nelson, and Valerie Barber-Axthelm unloaded on the goalposts, and they led 68-6. Lauren Skonieczny had one of the best games of her footy career, bagging a couple of goals.

The fourth quarter saw the Liberty fully control the hitouts from Kathleen Michaels, and rammed the ball down the guts for a number of good goals.  Amy Arundale opened her international account with a silky goal off the hitout, Silvio added to the tally in a similar manner, and the forwards queued up for their chances off of Magpie kickins.  Kait Peterson kicked two at the end to bring the Liberty over 100 points for the first time in their history.

Goal kickers for the Freedom: Silvio 4, Peterson 3, Algozin 2, Leslie 2, Skoneczny 1, Arundale 1, Ostoff 1.  

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