July 24-26, 2009: USASA National Finals (Amateur Cup)
Hawks Win First-Ever National Title at USASA National Finals with a 2-1 Victory Over AAC Eagles of Chicago
Earlier, Hawks Edge Barracudas FC (Brownsville, TX) 5-4 in PKs in National Semifinal Thriller
(Sylvan Lake Park - Sanford, FL)
FRIDAY, 7 PM - National Semifinals - Region I Champions (Aegean Hawks FC) vs. Region III Champions (Barracudas FC)
The Hawks quest for a National title in Orlando started on Friday evening with a stiff challenge from a tough Texas team in the form of Region III champions Barracudas FC of Brownsville, TX in a USASA National Semifinal clash. In an electric battle that tested both teams character, the Barracudas used a 3-5-2 formation to knock the Hawks out of rhythm in the first half of play.
The Barracudas got on the board first in the 25' minute when a quickly taken shot from distance off a set piece caught Hawks netminder Nick Carlin-Voigt by surprise and gave the Texas side the early lead. After going down 0-1 in the first half, the Hawks could have easily been rattled. Instead, the Region I Champions came out of the gates in the second half inspired with bone crunching tackles, denying the Barracuda turn and winning every 50-50 ball in a swarming effort that saw pulsating waves of attack yield the equalizer in the 58th minute when Ricky Schramm buried an exposed ball into the back of the net. While Barracudas remained dangerous on the counter, the Aegeans kept swallowing their passes and looked to be going up midway through the second half when a Mike Goldman header was sent to net off a cross by Corey Curnutte, but clanked off the intersection of the crossbar and post to safety. The Hawks kept pressuring and increasing our possession margin, but failed to convert any chances. The Arlington side almost got burned in the 85' minute when the Barracudas countered quickly and launched a shot that pinged off the far post and back into the box, only to be desperately cleared by the Hawks defense. The whistle was blown for regulation and OT was in the cards.
Once again, the Hawks enjoyed the majority of possession in the extra stanzas, but had trouble getting shots off. When OT ran out, the Hawks stepped up to take PKs, which saw them come out victorious after being perfect with 5 for 5 conversions and Barracudas missing their last shot to send the Aegeans to the National title game vs. the AAC Eagles of Chicago, a 3-time national champion whose 3-0 drubbing of the Rovers of CO in the other semifinal had tournament organizers eyeing them as favorites for the title.
On Saturday, the Hawks were all treated to an absolutely perfect day of boating, grilling, soccer volleyball and pool lounging at Ricky Shramm''s aunt and uncle's place in Winter Park. It was a great time and the Hawks had a perfect day off to recuperate, recharge, and prepare for the title game on Sunday.
SUNDAY, 1 PM - National Finals - Region I Champions (Aegean Hawks FC) vs. Region II Champions (AAC Eagles)
In the National title game on Sunday, the Hawks were solid from start to finish - perhaps bolstered by the presence of team sponsor and mentor, Barry Gudelsky whose commitment to take a taxi to the field from the airport says much about his love for the team. The first Aegean Hawks goal was earned at the 25' mark when Ricky Schramm's penetration and pass into the box was poked home with authority by striking partner John Stephens to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
In the second half, the Hawks continued the pressure until a 30 minute break for lightning sent both teams into the clubhouse only 11 minutes into the second half. Five minutes after play resumed, an Eagles foray past the Hawks defense in the box saw them send a chip over Hawks keeper, Alex Fatovic, for the nice finish and a 1-1 scoreline. Undaunted, the Hawks continued the fine combination passing which saw Ricky Schramm sent in to goal off a nice feed by Anders Kelto that was smashed home with authority to the upper 90 for the 2-1 margin.
Stellar defense from the squad for the remainder of the match saw the Arlington, VA side able to absorb all the Eagles attempts - and then it was done!! MVP goes to the Hawks defensive back line of Thurston, McMorris, Voss, and Valverde who were stellar all weekend long.
After the match, both teams took photos together in an exemplary display of sportsmanship and goodwill. The National Finals was a truly memorable experience for all the teams and the Hawks were elated to come out on top. Said team player/manager Jon Knight: "I cannot describe in words how proud I am of the club. For many of us, this is our first national title and it is truly an incredible feeling knowing that our name is forever written in the USASA history books as Amateur Cup champions for 2009. Nobody can ever take that away from us and it is a testament to the cohesiveness and dedication that all Hawks players, past and present, have shown. We play for the love of the game, and our reward is great memories, good soccer, and some accolades along the way. There is no greater accolade we can achieve, so congrats again to everyone."
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