England pulls off stunning Round of 16 upset prevailing 2-1 against Norway

Following Australia’s stunning upset of Brazil in Round of 16 play, England followed suit with a 2-1 triumph against a powerful Norwegian squad who had ambitions to reach the semifinals. The heroics were attributed to Lucy Bronze, who converted on a long-range strike that proved to be the game-winner.

In front of a crowd of soccer enthusiasts at Ottawa’s Landsowne Park (where Norway played in Group B competition), England made history with their victory. Of note, it was the first time that England had prevailed in a Women’s World Cup contest that extended beyond Group play.

Considering the heartbreak that English soccer fans have felt with the performances of their men’s teams in international play, the 2-1 victory is a landmark moment in English women’s soccer history. In a tournament that has proven to be very difficult to come back and win if a team allows the first goal in match play, the English managed just that.

After neither team could score in the first half, Norway’s Solveig Gulbrandsen scored the game’s first goal at the 54th minute. Her header off the corner kick went past English goalkeeper Karen Bardsley off the top crossbar. Despite allowing the goal, Bardsley had some solid performances in the first half, stopping the likes of Isabell Herlovsen and Ada Hegerberg.

Of note, England would tie the score in a similar fashion as Stephanie Houghton converted a corner kick by heading it across the face of goal. The game-winner would come 15 minutes later as Jodie Taylor found Bronze. Releasing a shot to the near post, Bronze would fire it into the top corner past Ingrid Hjelmseth.

Despite not scoring in the contest, Manchester City’s Jill Scott was essential in helping set up plays, especially forcing a corner that resulted in Houghton’s game-tying goal. She also planted herself to the right of the penalty area, allowing Bronze the chance to capitalize on an eventual right-footed drive that made English soccer history.

Although Norway was unable to tie the game, they provided a remarkable effort, proving why they were the 2013 European Championship runners-up. Of note, the Norwegians maintained control for most of the match, especially with 51 minutes of possession. They also outshot the English by a 14-12 margin, including 5-3 on goal. For a proud soccer nation that was looking to win its first World Cup since 1995, the loss was more visceral as they had been unbeaten in their four previous matches against England in major tournaments.

England moves on to the quarterfinals against host country Canada. Of note, the last three World Cups have seen the squad suffer losses in the quarters, having reached the stage automatically after qualifying from group stage. Emotions will certainly run high for both sides as both look to reach the semifinals for the first time. Of note, Canada, who is coached by Englishman John Herdman, defeated England by a 1-0 tally in pre-tournament play.

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Plenty of future franchise players selected in historic NWHL Draft

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As the dream of a true professional women’s hockey league continues to take shape, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) Draft served as a key ingredient in helping fulfill such promise. With its four charter franchises each having five picks, there was no shortage of outstanding talent to choose from.

Selecting first overall was the New York Riveters, contemplating between 2015 Patty Kazmaier Award winner Alexandra Carpenter and 2015 Frozen Four champion Hannah Brandt. Considering that both were also teammates on the US national team that captured the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Malmo, Sweden, one agreeable aspect was that both are truly world-class talents.

Opting to acquire Carpenter with the first pick, it would prove to be the beginning of a pattern for the Riveters. Considering that Carpenter is a member of the Boston College Eagles, the Riveters grabbed two of her teammates as well. Having also played with Carpenter on the US team in Malmo, Haley Skarupa and Dana Trivigno were selected 5th and 13th overall, respectively.

Although every draft pick has one year of NCAA eligibility remaining, the challenge is signing those players upon graduation.
There is no question that attempting to select players from the same school may prove to be a key strategy in helping ensure that such picks do not go to waste.

The Connecticut Whale employed the same strategy as well. Wisely selecting Brandt with the second pick overall, the Whale opted to draft two of Brandt’s teammates from the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Picked 10th overall was Milica McMillen, while Maryanne Menefee, who has served as Brandt’s linemate for the past three season was surprisingly still available at the 14th spot.

Still available at the third overall, the Boston Pride were ecstatic to obtain Kendall Coyne. Although Illinois is her home state, she did attend prep school in Massachusetts, where her hockey skills first shone. Having played three seasons of NCAA hockey with Boston’s Northeastern University, she is definitely looked upon as a homegrown talent by New England hockey fans. The chance to extend her career at the NWHL level in Boston shall only cement her legacy as one of the most talented women’s hockey players to play in the hockey mad city.

Of note, Coyne was part of a Pride draft class that featured three other players from New England-based schools. Selected seventh overall, Harvard’s Emerance Maschmeyer ended up making history twice. Not only was she the first Canadian-born player selected in the history of the draft, she was also its first-ever goaltender. Joined by Harvard teammate Miye D’Oench (15th overall) and Boston College’s Lexi Bender, it will be a unique experience for these Beanpot rivals to play for the same club at the professional level.

Surprisingly, the Buffalo Beauts passed on talent such as Maschmeyer (many polls speculated she would go in the first round), Skarupa, Erin Ambrose and Michelle Picard with the fourth overall pick. Opting for Wisconsin’s Courtney Burke, it was the most surprising pick of the entire draft. In the second round, with Ambrose still available, along with Bender and the high-scoring Menefee, Buffalo once again went off the board, grabbing French-Canadian player Sarah Lefort, currently of Boston University.

Picking Lefort did create another unique chapter in NWHL Draft history, as Lefort became the first Canadian-born player who was not a goaltender to be drafted. Ironically, Buffalo’s next pick involved a Canadian-born goaltender. Drafting Amanda Leveille with the 12th pick overall, it was a very shrewd acquisition. Having won an NCAA Frozen Four title with the Golden Gophers, Leveille may be their franchise goaltender.

Following the selection of Leveille, Buffalo employed the same pattern of every other club by selecting college teammates. Located nearby in Erie, Pennsylvania, Mercyhurst University’s combination of high scoring forwards Jenna Dingeldein and Emily Janiga found new homes in Buffalo. Considering Mercyhurst’s reputation for producing elite talent, many more players may soon find their careers extended in Buffalo.

Brooke Henderson grabs first career Symetra Tour win

In capturing the Four Winds Invitational at Blackthorn, becoming the third-youngest winner in the history of the Symetra Tour in the process, the golf calendar of 2015 continues to be Brooke Henderson’s coming-out party. The final round saw Henderson record a 3-under 69, accumulating an overall score of 10-under 206. As a side note, her sister Brittany also competed in the event.

After the first two rounds resulted in the native of Smiths Falls shooting 72 and 65, she had a strong showing during the back nine. Starting with the 11th hole, she made three straight birdies, strengthening her confidence as she looked to emerge victorious. Converting four consecutive pars afterwards, she held the lead for good. Trailing behind Henderson was Dottie Ardina of the Philippines. Achieving a birdie in the final hole, she finished with a 74 on the final day.

Complementing the career milestone for Henderson was the fact that LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan approved Henderson’s waiver petition, meaning that she is allowed the rare honor of Symetra Tour membership despite not turning 18 years of age until September 10. Accumulating $22,500 (U.S.) prize money for the win, it adds to a year of overall earnings that has seen Henderson earn over $300,000.

European soccer powers Germany and Sweden clash in Round of 16

As the weekend signified Round of 16 play, the top-ranked German squad returned to Ottawa. Having finished first in Group B (most Group B matches were contested in Ottawa), they hosted a Swedish team that earned a third-place finish at the 2011 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. In addition, the two had played each other in the final of the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup. With members of the Norwegian women’s team in attendance, as their Round of 16 match shall also be in Ottawa, the Germans were unable to capitalize on quick scoring opportunities.

Within the first two minutes of the game, the Germans had a chance to score twice but Alexandra Popp and Simone Laudehr missed on both chances. Eventually, Anja Mittag broke the deadlock with a 22-yard drive for the advantage. Adding to the lead was Celia Sasic, who would score goals in each half. In the 36 minute, she converted a penalty kick (after a trip from Amanda Ilestedt) to a roar of approval from the German fans in attendance. Just before halftime would expire, Sofia Jakobsson had a header that went over the cross bar, proving to be a visceral miss.

Facing a 2-0 deficit at halftime, Sweden came out strong, hoping to break the German’s momentum. Holding them scoreless for the first 33 minutes of the second half, it was testament to the Swede’s sterling efforts. With a header from close range during the 78th minute, Sasic put the Germans ahead by 3 goals.

Remaining determined, the Swedes continued to apply pressure. Linda Sembrant would break the German shutout, heading in a goal.
With eight minutes remaining, a free-kick by Therese Sjogran was headed by Linda Sembrant. Although it seemed like a sure goal, German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer made the save, proving why she is one of the world’s finest at her position. Before time would expire, Dzenifer Marozsan scored the goal of the game with a bicycle kick past goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, which impressed all in attendance.

Despite the final outcome, Sweden (who are ranked fifth in the world) played valiantly, employing a never say die attitude, persistent to the end. Although they sat on the turf, tears defining an outpouring of sullen emotion, they received a standing ovation from the soccer fans in attendance at Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park. Very graciously, they also greeted fans and signed autographs afterwards, testament to their remarkable sportsmanship.

Currently, Sasic and Mittag are tied in the race for the Golden Boot, leading all players with five goals each. Their next opponent shall be the French team, who defeated South Korea in Round of 16 play at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Of note, the quarterfinal match between the two shall also take place at Olympic Stadium as Germany looks to continue in its quest to win its third World Cup title.

Ice sledge hockey heroes take part in Pan Am Games torch relay

On the 20th day of the Toronto Pan-Am Games Torch Relay, a pair of encouraging and empowering female athletes had the chance to participate. Having competed for the Canadian national women’s team in ice sledge hockey, Jessie Gregory and Tuyet Morris Yurczyszyn were among a group of over 3,000 well-deserving individuals selected to participate in the nationwide relay.

Of note, Gregory and Morris Turczyszyn were not the only ice sledge hockey players recognized during the torch relay. On Day 12 (June 10), the torch covered a wide range of territory from Parry Sound to Barrie. During this trek, Midland’s North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre welcomed Adam Dixon, who earned a bronze medal with the Canadian men’s ice sledge hockey team at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Winter Games.

Specifications for the Torch include a length of 65 cm and a weight of 1.2 kg, composed of aluminum. The burn time is an average of 10 to 12 minutes’ burn time while being able to withstand winds up to 70 km/h. United We Play! Pictograms highlights the visual display, renditions of people in motion, punctuating the focus of the Games’ assembly of athletes while celebrating key values including culture and sport.

Both ice sledge hockey heroes were also donned in the obligatory uniform. Just like the torch, the United We Play pictograms were prominently displayed on said uniform, once again emphasizing culture and sport, a special amalgamation of the true meaning of the Games.

Day 20 saw the torch relay go through the communities of Kitchener, Cambridge, Brantford, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Burlington. Starting at THEMUSEUM, the relay subsequently found its way at the Cambridge Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts, where Morris Yurczyszyn was one of the torch bearers.

In Brantford, the torch was in the hands of a local figure skater at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre where she courageously skated with it. Visiting the New Credit First Nation in Mississauga, the official Host First Nation of the Games, Day 20 concluded in Burlington at Spencer Smith Park. Gregory proudly carried the torch in Brantford, joined by other torch bearers including Gretzky, figure skater Mary Orr, wrestling champion Madison Parks and marathon runner Krista DuChene.

Proud participants Tuyet Morris Yurczyszyn and Jessie Gregory (Image obtained from Facebook)

Proud participants Tuyet Morris Yurczyszyn and Jessie Gregory (Image obtained from Facebook)

Although both come from different backgrounds and heritage, their mutual love of hockey led to a remarkable friendship that has culminated with spots on the Canadian national women’s ice sledge hockey team. The chance to participate together in the torch relay contributes to another proud chapter in their friendship; displaying how sport can help bring positive outcomes to people’s lives and help overcome challenges.

Also teammates on the Brantford Crushers, the younger Gregory helped mentor Morris Yurczyszyn when she first started the sport. Very talented at multiple sports, Gregory is equally adept on the hardcourt in wheelchair basketball and on the green grass of both wheelchair tennis and golf, respectively.

Having emigrated to Canada as an orphan from Vietnam in 1975, Morris Yurczyszyn is a proud mother of two whose rise to prominence as an ice sledge hockey player represents the Canadian dream. A lifelong hockey fan, she grew up in the community of Brantford, Ontario, home of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

Two of Gretzky’s younger brothers, Glenn and Keith both knew Morris Yurczyszyn (she went to high school with Keith). Of note, the Gretzky connection would also extend to her experience in the Pan Am torch relay. Patriarch Walter Gretzky was another deserving choice to participate in the torch relay, adding to the day’s jubilation.
Getting the chance to meet both Morris Yurczyszyn and Gregory, it only strengthened the sense of pride that defined a memorable day in their amazing careers.

Akin to the Olympic torch that is part of the Summer and Winter Games, the Pan Am Games torch carries the same profound meaning for its athletes and fans alike. Taking into account that Vancouver hosted the 2010 edition of the Vancouver Winter Games, the Pan Am experience in 2015 is one that shall strengthen the unity of Canadian sports fans.

Rising star Brooke Henderson contributes to memorable week of golf in her hometown

Following a top five performance at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship‎, Brooke Henderson continued her whirlwind year with a stop in her hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario. Showing her compassionate side as a sporting humanitarian, she held a Pro-Am tournament with her sister Brittany (a pro on the Symmetra Tour) at their home course.

In addition to raising funds in the region of close to $15,000, Lanark County Support Services was one of the the beneficiaries (where their mother Darlene worked), partial proceeds from the tourney were also provided for Doefstrong. Named in honor of 18-year-old Neil Doef, the aspiring hockey player endured a severe spinal cord injury during a game. Having also attended the same high school as Henderson, Doef followed Henderson in a cart for most of the event.

The event held an additional component for Henderson as she received another significant award. Presented to her at the course was her high school diploma. As she continues to stake her claim as one of the world’s finest young female golfers, she missed her graduation day. Friends and teachers greeted her on the golfing greens to celebrate a treasured milestone in anyone’s young life.

Adding to the jubilation of such a memorable day is the fact that the Canadian Tour is holding a women’s golf event in Smiths Falls during the same week. Testament to the star power of Henderson, a handful of LPGA pros are also making the trek to Henderson’s hometown to compete for $60,000 in prize money.
The pros return to the course Tuesday and Wednesday to vie for $60,000 in prize money. Not yet old enough to enjoy a drink at the clubhouse, but has already proven she can play golf with the best in the world. As a side note, 103 local sponsors signed up to show their support for the Canadian Tour event.

Hoping to earn her LPGA Tour Card in 2016, Henderson also has ambitions to compete for Canada in golf at the 2016 Rio Summer Games. Considering that hse has already earned more than $317,000, she would rank 20th overall on this year’s LPGA money list if she had membership. As long as her earnings are good enough to be considered in the top 40 of the LPGA’s money list, she will automatically earn her card for next season, avoiding Q-school. The tie for fifth at the KPMG Women’s LPGA Championship, which is also one of the majors on the LPGA resulted in Henderson finishing in the top-15 for the fifth time in seven appearances at LPGA events.

In the aftermath of the Canadian Women’s Tour event at the Smiths Falls Golf and Country Club, Brooke and Brittany Henderson both enjoyed a very admirable second and third place finish. The victor would prove to be Rebecca Lee-Bentham, of Richmond Hill, whose two-day total paced a field consisting of 90 competitors.

Having also played with the LPGA Tour, the final round for the product of the Golf Canada’s Young Pros program was a 69, bringing her two-day total score at 140, finishing two under par. Rain had caused delays on the first day of the event, forcing the grounds keeping crew to go the extra mile to ensure the course met tour standards.

Brooke would shoot a 70 on the second day, accumulating a total score of 143, while Brittany, also a member of the Symetra tour, tied for third place with a score of 146. The next Canadian appearance for Brooke Henderson shall take place at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in Coquitlam, B.C., starting on August 17.

The true victory for the Henderson sisters was the opportunity to meet the fans, sign autographs and recognize the hard work of the tournament organizers. With the success of the inaugural charity pro-am, the level of support and awareness would only increase should another one be held in 2016. Three memorable days in Smiths Falls was a heartfelt moment to give back and thank those who have supported her along the way.

DC Divas enjoy perfect 2015 regular season with convincing win against Boston

Although the Boston Renegades are different from the now-defunct Boston Militia team that captured the 2014 WFA national championship, a strong statement about who would compete for the 2015 edition of the championship was made. Enduring a 56-28 loss to the DC Divas, the game may have been a symbolic passing of the torch.

In a meaningful win for the undefeated Divas (8-0), who faced competition over the last few seasons from the Militia, this season has resulted in dominance against the Renegades. In its prior incarnation, the Militia never faced two losses in the same season to an opponent. This season as the Renegades, they suffered two losses at the hands of the top-ranked Divas.

On the first possession, the Divas set the tone with a 71-yard touchdown drive, culminating in Kenyetta Grigsby’s five-yard run. Subsequently, Cherre Marshall intercepted long-time Boston quarterback Allison Cahill. Capitalizing on the turnover, Divas signal caller Allyson Hamlin and wide receiver Ashley Whisonant connected on a 79-yard touchdown pass, extending the lead.

With Boston suffering their second consecutive turnover, Helen Deer recovered the fumble allowing the Divas the chance to add to an already commanding lead. Once again, Hamlin was the factor as she scored on a quarterback sneak. Before the first quarter would expire, Militia alum Stacey Tiamfook would score on a third and goal, attempting to breathe life back into the Renegades, trailing 20-7.

Following Tiamfook’s touchdown, Hamlin would make history on a 58-yard drive that resulted in the 200th touchdown pass of her Divas career, more than any other football quarterback in the history of Washington sports. The 36-yard touchdown pass was fittingly caught by long-time teammate Whisonant, who helped increase the lead to a 27-7 mark.

Turning Team USA alum Adrienne Smith to get back in the game, Boston quarterback Allison Cahill found a way to build momentum. Catching a pair of long passes as part of an impressive 57 yard drive, her 37-yard scoring reception came on a crucial third and 11.

Coming back with their fifth touchdown in five possessions, Whisonant would make her mark in the historic game, catching her third touchdown pass of the game. In the first half alone, she had accumulated a remarkable 183 receiving yards on just five receptions.

Although the Renegades combination of Tiamfook (who ran for 54 yards in the drive) and Cahill would culminate in another touchdown, the defense could not contain a high octane Divas offense. Requiring just 61 seconds to cover an astonishing 61 yards, Grigsby bookended the first half by scoring the final touchdown of said half.

Making some halftime adjustments, the third quarter saw the Renegades defense allow only three points, providing the offense the opportunity to get back into the game. Tiamfook showed why she is one of the WFA’s most dominant running backs with a three-yard touchdown run which reduced the Divas lead to only 15 points, 43-28.

Scoring on their seventh straight possession, the Divas managed to regroup on offense as Kentrina Wilson was the recipient of a 13-yard pass from Hamlin. With 8:17 left, Hamlin orchestrated a superlative drive that consumed seven minutes and 26 seconds, frustrating the Renegades overwhelmed defense. Completing her fifth touchdown pass (finding Lillian Cherry with 51 seconds remaining), she had accumulating a sparkling 331 passing yards.

Clinching home field advantage in the National Conference playoffs, the Divas enjoyed their sixth undefeated regular season in franchise history. Considering that it is also their 15th Anniversary season, it is testament tot heir impact as one of the premier teams in female football.

References: Neal Rozendaal