Friday, July 30

A Quest for W-League Glory

The Vancouver Whitecaps will be looking to make history Saturday evening in Santa Clarita, CA in the W-League Championship game as they take the pitch with the opportunity to become the first club to win the title three times. On the other side of the field will be the Buffalo Flash, a second-year side looking to bring women’s soccer into the limelight in Northern New York where the Rochester Rhinos have long-been the top dogs with USL First Division and US Open Cup championships. For one player, Kelly Parker, the game also represents unfinished business.

The Pali Blues claimed a playoff spot at the last minute to keep their bid for a third consecutive league championship alive, but the run finally came to an end in Vancouver to a Whitecaps squad that has returned to its former dominance in the Western Conference. Thursday evening, they proved that their 6-0-4 unbeaten season was not propped up by a weak conference with parity below the top seed as they cruised out to a 2-0 first half lead on a goal and an assist from Kaylyn Kyle in the first 13 minutes en route to a 3-1 victory over the regular season champion Hudson Valley.

The victory sent the Whitecaps to the final for the fourth time in club history, having previously reached the championship in 2001, 2004 and 2006, claiming titles in the last two. The Whitecaps join the Chicago Cobras as the only club to have reached the final four times.

Melissa Tancredi was the leading scorer on the season with five goals and an assist with Jodi-Ann Robinson pairing up with her for three goals and two assists. Led by a number of Canadian internationals, the Whitecaps are as close to a professional team as could be.

The Flash, on the other hand, are a professional team. Buffalo finished the season 10-0-2, topping last year’s record of 9-2-3 and knocked out longtime league power Ottawa (8-1-3) in the conference final, 1-0, to reach the final four. On Thursday, they downed Atlanta behind the efforts of former W-League MVP and WPS player Kelly Parker, who scored twice in the second half to break a 1-1 halftime stalemate.

Parker was the leading scorer on the team in just seven games played with 11 goals and five assists, but was not the only player with eye-popping numbers. Mele French and Ann-Marie Heatherson each had seven goals in nine games and Veronica Boquete, who set up Parker’s two semifinal tallies had five goals and seven assists for the season in just five appearances.

There is unfinished business at hand for Kelly Parker Saturday. Although she did not play, Parker ended a miserable personal championship drought last year as a member of champion Sky Blue in WPS, but she will be out to finally win the elusive W-League title in Santa Clara.

It began with the Ottawa Fury, who four times reached the W-League Final Four under Parker’s leadership, coming up short each time, including twice in the championship game. The four-time All-League selection moved onto the FC Indiana Lionesses in 2008, but suffered the same fate, losing in a heartbreaker that saw the club’s lead disappear in the final seven minutes of the match against the Pali Blues, making Parker 0-3 in Finals, coming up short for the fifth time W-League championship events.

Catch the game Saturday night on Fox Soccer Channel, 10 pm ET.

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