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Keeper Carly Duello anchored the defensive backline.

SPARTA 04 GIRLS SEIZE PLANO LABOR DAY RUNNER UP TITLE

By Clay Rasmussen, 09/05/17, 9:30AM CDT

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Keeper Duello Shines in Championship Game

After being denied entry into the Gold Division of the Plano Labor Day Invitational for three straight years, the Sparta 04 Girls showed the tournament staff the error of their decision.

Since 2014, Sparta has captured the championship title in the Silver Division after not being accepted into the Gold Bracket. This year, tournament directors gave the girls their shot and Sparta rewarded their decision by ripping through the competition en route to the Championship Game.

"The pool they put us in was by far the most difficult," Coach Hefley remarked. "We had a Champions League team, the number two South Texas team from El Paso, and a really good Lake Highland D2 team."

Sparta kicked off the tournament in grand style, beating Solar Rodriguez TCL 3-1. Led by stopper Alyssa Villavicencio's two header goals off corner kicks, and a goal from forward Merrill Kruemcke, Sparta cruised to an opening 3-1 victory.

In the second pool game vs Sting Pfeil, forward Graycen Rasmussen pitched in a hat trick to lead the girls to a 5-0 win. Forwards Ashley Hurst and Kruemcke both knotted a goal to ensure the win and the defensive backline earned the shutout.

In the final pool game, Sparta earned a 3-2 victory against tournament traveling team and 2nd-ranked  EPSCL Cosmos. Attacking Midfielder Maddy Bilbia started the scoring off with an outside shot over the keepers reach. Rasmussen, who led the team in tournament goals with 5,  then made the keeper pay after stealing a goalie kick and returning the ball to the back of the net. Rasmussen added another off a deft pass from Hurst that sealed the 3-2 victory.

Winning pool play earned the girls a bye in the quarter finals. The Cosmos earned a rematch by winning the quarterfinals, but it would be Hurst's winning goal and yet another shut out performance from Carly Duello and the No Goal Patrol.

Sparta would face D'Feeters Voutier in the finals. Voutier, one of the top teams in Texas, was wary of the Spartan attack. "That is a very good team," D'Feeters coach Gerard Voutier. Bolstered by four ECNL players, Feet quickly cut through the Sparta defense to earn a 1-0.

"After that first quick goal, the girls settled in and did a better job defending the speed and skill of D'Feeters," Hefley said. "We made some key adjustments and slowed their attack as much as we could."

The D'Feeters added two quick strikes in the second half, but the story of the game was goalie Carly Duello, who continued to make acrobatic save after save to keep the game in reach. "Your goalie stood on her head and made some incredible saves," Voutier said after the game. But, in the end, injuries to Villavicencio, Kruemcke, and Rasmussen slowed the Sparta attack and hurt Sparta's chances of drawing even.

"Hey, its a huge accomplishment capturing the Gold Runner Up title," Hefley said. "These girls can hold their heads up, knowing that they deserve to play with the highest level of competition."

The girls get back to league play this weekend and are settling into their quest to promote to D1 Lake Highlands.