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Westchester Girls Soccer Team Triumphs in Denmark

soccerballThe Rye Celtics, an under-15 Girls team with players from Westchester and Rockland counties and from New York City, swept through an international field of 56 teams to victory at the 30th Anniversary Dana Cup in Hjorring, Denmark. Scarsdale High School's Ali Lonner (goalie) and Stefanie Katsoff (defender) along with Edgemont's Gaby Susz (midfield) were joined by 18 other girls from Rye and surrounding communities under sunny skies in the five day tournament, billed as the largest sporting event in Denmark and one of the world’s largest youth soccer tournaments with over 850 boys and girls teams representing over 40 countries.

In the first two days, the Celtics, coached by Bill Whiston of the Rye Youth Soccer Club, played three qualifier games, winning 4-0, 4-0 and 3-0 to move into the A-bracket round of 32. After a night at the discothèque and carnival that was constructed by tournament organizers, on day three the Celtics won their first elimination match by a score of 3-0 and prepared to face the toughest competition yet in the round of 16 later that day. Against Varegg-Sandviken IL of Norway, the undersized American squad played a very physical match that wasn't very pretty to watch. After a scoreless first half, and with less than ten minutes remaining in the second, and with the Celtics facing the possibility of going to penalty kicks to decide the match, Susz put the ball in the back of the net to provide the margin of victory and send the girls on to the quarterfinals.

On day four the Celtics dominated their quarterfinal and semifinal matches 4-0 and 2-0. They were cheered on by a number of girls from other teams who had been eliminated in earlier competition and came out to watch the skillful Americans. With the final on the agenda for 11:45 the next day at the Hjorring Stadium, Coach Whiston nonetheless agreed to allow the girls one more night at the disco (with a strict curfew) as reward for their hard work and dedication. His confidence paid off as the girls came out hard against Arna-Bjørnar Allianse IL, a select team from Bergen, Norway. Playing in front of a crowd of several thousand, they played a scoreless first half despite one of the Celtic captains going to the bench with an upper leg injury. After some halftime adjustments, the eventual champions scored early in the second half and the added one more in the last ten minutes to seal the victory.

In all, the girls scored 23 goals and the spectacular defense surrendered none. This was the best showing of any team in the tournament and the best performance by any foreign team in the 30-year history of the event.

The sightseeing in Copenhagen, the camaraderie with girls from around the world speaking the common language of sport, and the success on the pitch, made this trip one that these girls will never forget.

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Picture: Ali Lonner (first row, sixth from left), Stefanie Katsoff (second row, third girl from left), Gaby Susz (second row, sixth girl from left)

Reported by Chris Lonner

 

 

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