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Photo courtesy: Aiden Armstrong

Asheville City Record First-Ever Playoff Win in Dramatic Fashion Over Florida Elite Soccer Academy

By Mitch Stone, 07/06/24, 9:00AM HST


Photo courtesy: Aiden Armstrong

On Friday night at Greenwood Field, the Women of Asheville secured their first-ever playoff win with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Florida Elite Soccer Academy. The Blues initially trailed in the 57th minute but rallied with two straight goals from Isabella Demarco and 16-year-old Caroline Dew to capture the win. 

With numerous absences in the lineup, including the likes of star midfielders Gry Boe Thrysoe and Yulia Khrystiuk, the Blues faced a difficult challenge against the Southeast Divsion’s undefeated champion. However, with the assistance of last-minute additions Isabella and Alexis Damarco, along with contributions from the academy players off the bench, Asheville was able to overcome adversity and accomplish the impossible.

Photo courtesy: Aiden Armstrong

The Blues were in the driver’s seat for much of the first half, dominating in possession and generating a majority of the chances. In their usual fashion, Ilana Izquierdo and Lucie Bertrand bossed the midfield, effectively distributing the ball across all three lines while producing clear-cut opportunities from seemingly nothing. 

The first real chance of the match came in the fourth minute off a counter attack led by veteran Molly Dwyer. Dwyer, with a moment of brilliance, cleverly flicked the ball with the outside of her boot to Addie Porter, who quickly took it off the defender and sprinted towards goal, launching a rising strike just over the bar. 

Photo courtesy: Cameron Shook

Four minutes later, Florida Elite Soccer Academy created their only significant chance of the half following some nice interplay in the midfield. In the buildup, Valerie Hernandez swiftly completed a one-two with Morgan Robertson and kicked the ball out wide to Sabrina Mcneill. She proceeded to dart into the box and fire a shot across goal, narrowly missing the far post. 

In the 12th minute, the Blues missed a golden opportunity to take an early lead. Addie Porter’s immense pressure forced a turnover in the midfield, prompting Isabella Demarco to speedily gather the ball and send a through ball to Porter downfield. Asheville’s leading goalscorer then darted into the box and played a perfect cross to Ilana Izquierdo right in front of goal, which the Colombian failed to convert. 

Porter was involved in the action yet again in the 27th minute, nearly netting her 10th goal of the season off a wonderful through ball from Lucie Bertrand. The former France U19 international broke away on the counter and delivered a magnificent ball past two defenders, allowing Porter to take a touch forward and blasted a bouncing shot towards the near post, forcing a comfortable save. 

Photo courtesy: Aiden Armstrong

For the remaining minutes of the half, there wasn’t much to separate the two sides. While Asheville created a handful of fruitless opportunities, Florida Elite were able to regain control over a portion of the possession heading into halftime. 

The women of Asheville started the second half on the front foot, successfully pressing and forcing giveaways as Florida attempted to push forward. In the 48th minute, following a giveaway near the Blues’ box, Bertrand took the ball towards the center of the pitch and laid it off to Dwyer. While falling, she sent an exceptional through ball to Isabella Damarco, who struck it first-time across goal, just missing the far corner. 

In the 57th minute, after failing to test Alison Little all match, Florida Elite took the lead against the run of play. In chaotic fashion, Bertrand’s slide tackle at the top of the box deflected the ball to Valerie Hernandez in front of goal, where she turned and slipped it past Little to make it 1-0. 

The Blues nearly responded just a minute later when a giveaway from a goal kick fell to a wide-open Izquierdo outside of the box. Asheville’s #10 calmly took a touch forward and launched a rising strike towards the upper left corner of the goal, prompting goalkeeper Morgan Weaver to fully extend for the save. 

Asheville finally got one back in the 73rd minute after the momentum had shifted in Florida Elite’s favor. From inside her own half, Izquierdo delivered a stunning long ball to Isabella Demarco, who quickly took a touch forward and flew past her defender, bending a stunning shot into the right side netting to level the score. 

Isabella DeMarco goal vs. FL Elite, 07-05-24

9 minutes after the equalizer, 16-year-old Caroline Dew made history for Asheville. After Izquierdo dribbled forward and laid off a pass to Dew, the Asheville high defender, playing out of position, unleashed a driven shot from the top of the box that miraculously found its way between Weaver’s legs and into the goal. Against all odds, the Blues took an astonishing 2-1 lead thanks to the local high school phenom. 

Dew’s 82nd minute stunner proved to be the winner, as the women of Asheville would go on to win their first ever playoff match in history. Izquierdo’s two assists earned her the Highland Brewing Player of the Match

Caroline Dew goal vs. FL Elite, 82nd minute, 07-05-24

When asked about what the team can improve upon ahead of Sunday, Coach Brooke Bingham stated, “I think our finishing. I think we could be a little less direct. We pass the ball well and we do really good one touch soccer, so we need to do that and play our game from the beginning to the end of the game.”

Coach Brooke Bingham post game recap

The men of Asheville are back in action on Saturday as they also play Tennessee SC on the road. Having already clinched the division and playoffs, the Blues now look to equal their points total from last season with a game in hand.