Edmond – The Chicago Red Stars Reserves took advantage of goals from Mary Luba and Ashley Handwork en route to claiming the Women’s Premier Soccer League Championship 2-1 over SoCal FC at Thompson Field on the campus of Central Oklahoma in the heat on Sunday afternoon.
The Marquette duo of Luba and Handwork continued where they left off in their WPSL semifinal match on Saturday, combining for two goals and an assist against SoCal FC. Over the two-day event, they finished with four goals and two assists, with Luba taking home six points (2 goals, 2 assists) for the weekend.
Through the opening quarter hour, the Red Stars had worked over SoCal keeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme to the tune of three shots on goal, but Prudhomme was equal to the task each time. That changed when Lillian Toaspern broke through the SoCal backline, picked her head up and slotted a pass to a wide open Luba. Though Prudhomme did her best to make herself big, Luba calmly chipped the ball over the keeper’s head for the opening score in the 18th minute of play.
Unfortunately for Chicago, the lead would not last long. Not five minutes after going ahead, Darian Jenkins slid the ball to Annie Alvarado who sent a curling shot past the outstretched arms of Monica Gonyo to level the score at 1-1.
Though SoCal had the better chances as the game approached halftime, Gonyo and the Red Stars defense were able to recover, blocking two shots and recording a save. Halftime arrived with the score still even, but SoCal enjoying a slight 4-3 shot advantage.
After Prudhomme flashed a perfect fingertip save over the crossbar to start the second half, the Red Stars seized the lead on the ensuing corner in the 50th minute. Luba whipped in an in-swinging corner that fell onto Handwork’s head in the middle of a scrum in the box, just beating Prudhomme. The goal would stand as the deciding tally.
Despite token pressure from SoCal following Handwork’s score, it turned out to be the Red Stars who enjoyed the best chance in the dying embers of the game. However, facing a one-on-one with the keeper, the shot was sent wide of the goal and out for a goal kick. Following three additional minutes of play, the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the regulation.
This was not the first time the Red Stars have been in a position to claim the WPSL championship, falling in the WPSL Final in 2011 and 2012. This year though, Chicago was finally able to reach the summit for the first time in club history.