Cook Inlet boys clinch national-title soccer berth, girls near clinching one

Doyle Woody
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News

With one match remaining in group play, the boys U-16 team from the Cook Inlet Soccer Club won its second straight game at a national tournament Friday to clinch a spot in Sunday’s championship game.

And Cook Inlet’s U-17 girls team rolled to a victory Friday that puts it on the brink of locking a championship-game berth.

Both teams are flourishing at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup in Greenville, South Carolina.

That tournament represents the country’s second tier of youth soccer, much the way USA Hockey’s nationals are split into the most elite level of Tier I and a cut below that at Tier II. The highest level of youth soccer in America culminates at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships later this month in Maryland.

Cook Inlet’s boys beat FC Europa Samba of Pennsylvania, 2-0, on Friday. That came after Cook Inlet’s tournament-opening 3-1 win Thursday over the Austin Texans, and the second straight win clinched a championship berth.

Talon Stanley converted penalty kicks in the 16th minute and 20th minute to spark the Alaskans. The first goal came after Brendon Doyle was taken down in the box. The second came when the Pennsylvania team was whistled for a hand ball in the box.

“We came out strong again,’’ said Cook Inlet coach Matt Froehle. “We’ve been doing a good job of that, starting at full speed, and especially full brain-speed.’’

Froehle said goalkeeper Caleb VanBlankenstein made a couple of sharp saves and his defense was organized and strong. Froehle also said the Alaskans generated the majority of scoring opportunities.

“We had a lot of chances and just couldn’t put them in,’’ Froehle said. “I guess we’re saving them all for Sunday.’’

The U-16s, who sit atop the four-team group with six points, on Saturday play the Mid Rivers Tigers of Missouri (0-2-0).

Meanwhile, the Cook Inlet girls, coming off a 1-1 draw in Thursday’s opener, find themselves tied for first place in their group with four points after a 6-1 win Friday over FASA Impact Premiere of Virginia.

Vanessa Valdez scored just two minutes into the match for the Alaskans and Haleigh Van Allen scored in the third minute. Van Allen added another first-half goal, as did Malia Lyken, who delivered two second-half goals for a hat trick. Lyken leads all tournament goal scorers with four, twice as many as any other player.

The Cook Inlet girls can cement a spot in Sunday’s championship game with a victory or draw Saturday against the Evansville Shooting Stars of Indiana (1-1-0).

“If we come out and play the way we can, I like our chances,’’ said Cook Inlet coach Tim Valesko. “But we still have work to do.’’