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Initially, Boca Raton’s Pia Beaulieu wasn’t in the starting 11 when Team Boca’s U-19/20 girls were going to face Sporting Nebraska in the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships at Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota.
Because of scheduling conflicts, she had missed several training events and games leading up to the national competition, but an injury to Ashley Labbe in the semifinals opened the door for Beaulieu to start.
Beaulieu, who had been coming off the bench for most of the tournament, scored four goals to lift the Team Boca Soccer Club’s U19/20 girls’ soccer team to a 4-2 victory over Sporting Nebraska.
She recorded a hat trick in the game’s first 30 minutes to stake the locals to a 3-1 advantage. The Princeton commit added a game-sealing goal with 15 minutes remaining to help the program win its second national championship in three days.
Team Boca coach Patrick Baker, who is also the head coach at Florida Atlantic University, informed Beaulieu that she was starting just before kickoff.
“She and Nikole Solis were doing a great job in coming off the bench and giving us great minutes so when Ashley went down Pia was ready,” Baker said. “It was probably one of the top three games I have ever seen her play and it was the best finishing performance I have ever seen — four finishes on six attempts, especially at that level.”
“I wasn’t supposed to start, but I understood and respected his decision,” said the 18-year-old Beaulieu. “It was the right thing to do. Coach Baker told me before the game that I was starting. I had been coming on as a sub and I didn’t know what that was like since I usually start all of the time. I just thought this is my moment.
“It means the whole world,” she said. “It was the most unreal feeling. I started soccer at 8 with some of these girls and we gave it all we had over the year. If there is any way to go out, this is it.”
The Team Boca Under-13 girls had won the first national championship in the 43-year history of the club with a come-from-behind 3-2 (3-2 PKs) victory over the Michigan Nationals Union.
Neither team was able to generate much offense during the contest until Nationals Union forward Mikayla Johnson broke through the Team Boca defense and took a shot that bounced off goalkeeper Kenslee Ward’s hands and onto the foot of Lily Jeakle, who slotted the ball just inside the post with three minutes remaining in regulation.
Team Boca’s Mary Slade Hartofolis equalized in the first minute of stoppage time when she beat four defenders and crashed into the goal to knot the game at 1-1. Lola Hawthorne had sent a long centering ball to Mia Conard, who went up for a header as the goalkeeper came out.
Michigan seized a 2-1 lead three minutes into the first overtime when Johnson bolted down the right flank and found Maren Swan at the top of the penalty area. Swan collected the pass and centered the ball to an unmarked Jeakle for her second goal of the game.
Just two minutes later, Team Boca equalized again when Adrianna Gonzalez sent a long clearing pass to Slade Hartofolis, who took two dribbles to her right and slotted the ball to the back post beating goalkeeper Hope Pierfelice from 10 yards out to tie the game at 2-2 and send the game to penalty kicks.
Swan replaced Pierfelice in goal for the penalty kick shootout. In the penalty kick shootout, Michigan’s Jaekle converted her shot and Hartofolis equalized. The next kickers for their respective teams missed their shots. Swann and Emily Rodriguez each scored to make it 2-2. Michigan’s Sloane Popov’s shot was saved on a diving save by Ward and Team Boca’s Adrianna Gonzalez scored to give Team Boca a 3-2 advantage. Ward clinched the game with a diving save to her right on a shot by Johnson.
“It’s unbelievable to have two national championships,” said Team Boca Director of Coaching Mario Rincon, who is also the 13-Under coach. “We had four teams at nationals, the most of any other club in the country. It is a credit to our coaches and players to get through this unique situation with COVID.
“The 13s really found a way,” he said. “It was unbelievable. It was the true essence of sports. It was just surreal to be down twice in a game and then come back and win in penalty kicks.”
Slade Hartofolis was able to do something at nationals that her mother was unable to do some 27 years later.
“She is really proud of me,” said Slade Hartofolis, who has played with the club since she was 7. “Winning this is really big. I was getting nervous when the ref said there was only two minutes left and I was able to get the tying goal right after that.
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“I don’t think this compares to anything,” the Spanish River Christian eighth-grader said. “It is one of the top things to ever happen to me.”
“Needless to say that we left our mark on the national stage not only by having the most teams from any club in the country advance to the Nationals but then also by winning two National Championships,” said Bill D’Addio, Team Boca soccer director.
“What made it truly special was to see so many of our kids who have been with Team Boca since U9 through U11s have the opportunity to compete and win at the National Championships,” he said. “They will be National Champions forever and they will have ‘Team Boca Pride’ forever.”
The Team Boca U19/20 boys were competitive in each match as were the U17 girls, who were also coached by Baker. Neither was able to reach the semifinals for their age groups. Baker said the team missed out on a few breaks that could have changed things.
“The boys were prepared and confident we could win the National title,” said coach Keith Fries, whose team opened the national tournament falling to Miami Strikers, 4-2. ”Our first match found us replaying the regional final and we just did not get the breaks we needed. We found ourselves having to push for goals in our last group match.
“We fell just short of our goal but it was not for the boys’ lack of purpose or effort,” he said. “The experience was great and the boys benefited greatly from playing for a National title.”