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  • John "Mountain" Rice

Who Runs The World

July 22, 2023: Indy Eleven v NC Courage U23 held the marquee matchup of the day for the USL @ 2:00pm. It would be just the 2nd match our Ladies In Blue would play at “The Mike.” Last year we saw them end the regular season with a 3-0 win over Detroit City before heading into the playoffs. This year, we the fans, got to see them play at “The Mike” for the USL W League Final. The match would be played in front 5,419 fans including a packed BYB. The BYB debuted a TIFO that read “We Run This Motha.”

For Indy, the start of the match would be much of the same compared to the semi-final against SF Glens SC. Hard fought & defensive driven. It was looking like a solid defensive unity from Indy, until they had a mishap in the 12’. A misplaced pass put a Courage attacker in open space with just her and Nona Reason in the way. She shoots it just slightly to Nona’s left. Nona goes to the ground and reaches out to get a hand on it and deflect the ball away. Defenders came back in and cleared it away. On the ensuing counterattack, Maddy Williams takes a shot that goes left to right and misses by just a few yards. When both sides would possess the ball in their defensive sides, it was always with a purpose. In the 20’ Indy would have another opportunity to put one on the board. Addie Chester would contain a cross outside the box. Maddy Williams making a run at the same time. Addie would send it through to Maddy & Maddy would SLOT ONE HOME! Or so we all thought until we saw the Assistant Referee’s flag go up signaling for an Offside. The Courage would begin to apply pressure in Indy’s defensive half but again, no dice through a mix of defensive work & Nona having the eyes to see the ball coming from any different angles. As the first half was ending, both sides were obtaining that attacking feel. The Courage would see one come with in the 45’ +1, that got thwarted by Indy’s defense. Indy would then see their final attack of the half in the 45’ +3 take place from a free kick. Grace Bahr would step up to take the kick and send it deep into the box. Alia Martin would go to the air and get a head on it, sending it towards the goal, only to be pushed away by the Courage goalie.

The second half would kick off and Indy would start with it. They would possess it for most of the opening minute, but they didn’t fully look to attack. The Courage would get the ball on an interception. On an over-the-top pass in behind the Indy defense, Nona would be forced to come out to the spot to collect the ball. As she went to the air for the ball, the Courage attacker would undercut Nona, sending Nona to the ground, and drawing the first card of the match. Indy would turn into the aggressors, which in times came back to bite them as the head official recognized it and didn’t award some calls. The Courage would find themselves opening up more and more attacking lanes but every time, Indy’s back line would step up and deny any good looks. The 60’ would see the next best chance from the Courage. A shot from the top of the box forcing Nona to move quickly to the post. She would gather it, but not without a slight bobble. No one in the vicinity to pose a threat on the rebound though. The first true opening for Indy would come in the 64’. A slight nudge from Maddy Williams would see the ball at the feet of Greta Kraszula approximately 10 yards outside the box. Maddy makes the run in behind. Greta passes it back. Maddy goes to shoot the ball left to right. It gets passed the keeper & FINDS THE BACK OF THE NET! CUE THE SMOKE! The crowd goes wild. However, there’s still 25 minutes + stoppage time to be played. Indy would continue to keep up the attacking pressure. A barrage of attacks that started with a corner in the 69’, all of which unable to find the back of the net in the end. The Courage couldn’t find anything of their own until the 73’ when a shot came at Nona from the end line which spilled out into the box and eventually got cleared by Emma Johnson. Early in the 75’, the Courage would find themselves on the attack again. A cross went in and found the head of Lauren Martinho near the top of the box. She sends it towards goal. From the stands it looked like it went in slow motion. Nona however was unable to reach far enough to stop it. The Courage tie it up. This one was far from over.

Last week, I anticipated the match to go into extra time. Thankfully I was proven wrong then. This week I anticipated nothing. I was hopeful that the ladies would find a way to end it in regulation. Despite the Courage's goal 11 minutes after Indy’s, the BYB didn’t go silent. More noise, more song, more drums, & more horns came screaming out of the West End. Fans would vocalize their opinion of the ref in the 77’ when Katie Soderstrom would get taken down in the box. Folks, I can tell you from watching the match back, it was a decent no call. The final 10 minutes of regulation saw a barrage of attacks from both sides.

Added Extra Time, overtime for those who are not well versed in soccer lingo, was underway after a brief intermission. The Courage would get the first attacking opportunity in the 92’ on a free kick right of the goal. It would find a head but ultimately go wide of the net for what became a corner that ended in an Indy clearance. Indy had an attacking threat in the 94’ that ended due to tired legs. Meanwhile, the BYB adopted the mentality of “these ladies won’t quit & neither will we.” Late in the 98’, Katie found herself with the ball down the sideline. An attempted cross got deflected out of bounds, awarding a corner for Indy. In the 99’, Grace Bahr would set up for the corner. Grace sends the ball into the box, it finds the head of Annika Creel & a Courage defender. The ball comes back across the box and finds none other than semi-final winning goal scorer, Alia Martin. Alia takes a swing, misses, finds herself with her back to the goal, flicks it with her right foot over her shoulder towards the goal, IT BEATS THE KEEPER! ALIA MARTIN WITH THE GO-AHEAD GOAL IN BACK-TO-BACK MATCHES! Out comes red & blue smoke yet again from the BYB. The crowd erupts!

As play would resume, the Courage would try to move as quick as possible every time the ball would go out of bounds in their favor. They would find themselves on the attacking foot a couple more times during the first 15 minutes but a strong defensive unit lead by Grace, denied the Courage any solid chances. Indy would find themselves gathering the ball and clearing it out into no-man’s land to give them any breathing room. The whistle blew to conclude the first 15 of AET, Indy leading 2-1.

The second 15 of AET would kick off & the BYB would still not back down on being loud. Indy would earn another corner in the 107’ which would get cleared right back to Indy and then earing yet another corner for Indy. More of the same on the second one, except this time, the Courage would keep possession. The Courage would get a handful of attacks without positive results. Unfortunately for Indy, Grace Bahr would fall to the ground in pain holding what looked like her right knee. She would limp her way off the field with assistance from Indy’s athletic trainer Sierra Garber and teammate Alia Martin. With the final whistle getting closer & closer, the Courage were doing all that they could to try and find the back of the net one more time. Indy did find themselves on the counterattack twice. The first ended with an outstretched save, the other found the ball going down to the corner for a little extra time wasting. In the 120’ + 3, the Courage would be awarded a corner. The ball got sent in, found a teammate, who rocketed the ball and took an apparent deflection which hit off the post and out for another corner. That following corner would find the arms of Nona. A final attack would find the Courage’s keeper up in their attacking box on a corner. The ball however would get cleared out for Indy. Rafferty Kugler would find herself WITH SPACE TO RUN, quickly getting behind the Courage’s defense and their keeper. ALL THAT IS LEFT FOR RAFFERTY TO DO IS TO LAUNCH THE BALL TOWARDS GOAL! However, a Courage defender catches her just before the kick & steals it back. The Courage defender would turn with the ball looking to attack. THE FINAL WHISTLE BLOWS! INDY WINS! INDY WINS! INDY WINS! OUR INDY ELEVEN WOMEN ARE CROWNED THE 2023 USL W LEAGUE CHAMPIONS!

An emotional celebration that started off with players running into the center of the field, then to the box, then quickly racing over to Grace who barely made it over to the corner flag. Our Ladies In Blue would take a victory lap around The Mike, thanking fans for their continued support. The BYB handed out 2 bricks today to the goal scorers, Maddy Williams & Alia Martin. Alia Martin would get crowned MVP. Indy would then set up a tunnel for the Courage as they went and collected their silver medals. Following their team photo, the Courage would turn around and do the same for Indy. Absolute class from both sides showing respect to each other during the post-game ceremonies.

At this time, there is no update on Grace Bahr’s injury situation. However, we do wish her a speedy recovery.

Congratulations to Paul Dolinsky, Maddy Williams, Brandon Kim, & Kelly Freeland, your work as coaches this season is what helped get these ladies to this moment.

To our ladies in blue: Emily Edwards, Maddie Fancher, Sara Kile, Nona Reason, Grace Bahr, Jenna Chatterton, Karsyn Cherry, Annika Creel, Teagan Jones, Nicole Kevdzija, Rafferty Kugler, Quincy McMahon, Lizzie Sexton, Trinity Watson, Megan Wilson, Alia Martin, Addie Chester, Amelie Darey, Becky Dean, Rachel Dewey, Sam Dewey, Hal Hershfelt, Merel Houweling, Greta Kraszula, Emma Johnson, Mollie Kuramoto, Alli Leonard, Kanna Matsuhisa, Ella Rogers, Sam Slimak, Seira Uko, Maria Vanegas, Ella Higgins, Abby Isger, Kristina Lynch, Rhonda Ojongmboh, Susie Soderstrom, Madisyn Hunt, Maya Lacognato, Cassidy Lindley, Olivia Simmons, Katie Soderstrom, Maisie Whitsett, & Maddy Williams, congratulations to you on a fantastic season capped off with the only trophy fitting for such a season! And thank you for fighting every second of every practice & every minute of every game to bring home a championship.

Thank you all for a phenomenal 2023 USL W League season. Until next year, Vamos Eleven.

*both image credit to @USLWLeague via twitter:

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