Opponents cannot like what they are absorbing from Malia Lyken of the Cook Inlet Soccer Club's U-17 girls team.
Lyken on Saturday delivered her second straight hat trick to spark Cook Inlet's 4-0 victory over the Evansville (Indiana) Shooting Stars in its final group-play match at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup in Greenville, South Carolina.
The victory earned the Alaskans (2-0-1) a spot in Sunday's championship match against GSA Force of Texas (2-0-1) – the teams tied 1-1 in each club's group-play opener Thursday.
Despite losing Saturday for the first time in the tournament, Cook Inlet's U-16 boys team (2-1-0) also will play for a championship Sunday, when it faces FC Europa Samba of Pennsylvania (2-1-0). The Alaskans beat FC Europa Samba 2-0 on Friday, courtesy of two successful penalty kicks by Talon Stanley.
The President's Cup represents the second level of youth soccer in this country, behind the U.S. Youth National Championships, set for later this month in Maryland.
Lyken on Saturday furnished the only goal of the first half, then scored goals three minutes apart deep into the second half. Her seven goals in three tournament games are more than twice as many as any other player in the four-team, U-19 group.
"She's got just flat-out pace, and you give her a chance in front and she's lethal,'' said Cook Inlet coach Tim Valesko.
Haleigh Van Allen added a late goal for Cook Inlet, and is tied for second in the group in goals with three.
Cook Inlet's boys had already secured a championship-match berth with victories Thursday and Friday ahead of Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Mid Rivers Tigers of Missouri. Greyson Adams scored Cook Inlet's goal.
Knowing his club had booked a spot in the title game, Cook Inlet coach Matt Froehle said he rested his entire defense Saturday to keep them fresh for Sunday's match. Still, the Tigers were a strong opponent.
"They played ball,'' Froehle said. "They really came out and got it done – sharp and alert and getting after it.''
Froehle expects a difficult rematch with FC Europa Samba on Sunday, noting the Alaskans' win against that club Friday came on Stanley's two penalty kicks.
"We know they'll be tough,'' Froehle said. "We've got a fight on our hands.''