UWS Midwest Conference Week 9 Preview: Four teams battle for the last two spots in the Midwest playoffs
Going into the final weekend of the regular season in the Midwest Conference of United Women’s Soccer (UWS), two teams have wrapped up spots in the four-team Midwest playoffs while the other two berths are still up for grabs. Last weekend, Grand Rapids FC captured the conference crown with two impressive wins at home while Detroit solidified their spot in second place with their own strong victory on Sunday. This weekend, four teams – FC Indiana (12 points), Toledo (10 points), Michigan (nine points) and Indy Premier (seven points) – will battle it out for the two remaining spots in the postseason.
FRIDAY, JULY 7
Michigan Legends FC vs. Toledo Villa FC
7:00 PM EDT – Legacy Center (Brighton, MI)
In the first matchup of the weekend between teams battling for a Midwest playoff spot, Toledo Villa FC (3-4-1 UWS Midwest) continue their road trip with the rubber match of the season series with Michigan Legends FC (2-3-3 UWS Midwest) – who are only one point behind Villa in the standings in fifth-place. The first matchup between the two sides must seem like ages ago, as Toledo hosted Michigan on Sunday, May 21 in Week II action. It would end up being a frustrating result for the home side due to MLFC netting a late equalizer in the 2-2 draw.
Michigan got on the score board first in the sixth minute when forward Singstock sent a diagonal pass to forward Kristelle Yewah, who placed her shot high and inside the far post. The Villa Women responded with two goals by forward Skylar Fleak. In the 24th minute, midfielder Veronica Zaciek intercepted a back pass and sent in Fleak for an open net goal. Six minutes into the second half, Zaciek’s corner kick met Fleak’s towering header. Michigan defender Megan Trapp broke the host’s hearts in the 80th minute as she converted on a rebound from a penalty kick for the 2-2 final score. MLFC out-shot Toledo by a 10-3 margin.
Indy Premier SC vs. Fort Wayne United Gryphons
7:00 PM EDT – Park Tudor School (Indianapolis, IN)
The Cinderella story – or, in other words – playoff run for Indy Premier SC (2-5-1 Midwest) commences on Friday night with a rematch against the Fort Wayne United Gryphons (2-6-1 Midwest), who they first met in Week III play on Sunday, May 28th. IPSC needs two wins and help to sneak in the back door into the Midwest playoffs (July 15-16), hosted by Grands Rapids FC in Grandville, MI. Indy Premier does have a home field advantage this weekend, playing their final two regular season games at Park Tudor School. And in this match against Fort Wayne, they can can have revenge on their mind after dropping a 1-0 loss in the first game between the two sides.
Gryphons forward Amelia White tallied the game-winning goal in the 18th minute at Warrior Athletic Field, as the attack came together for the host side in their first win of the season. IPSC goalkeeper Natalie Wilkinson had to make seven saves in the loss. White was named to the UWS Team Of The Week for her efforts. After an up-and-down season for the Indy Premier offense, the team’s attack finally broke out for their highest goal total of the year in last Friday’s 4-3 win over Michigan Legends FC. Forward Brady Riley tallied two goals and an assist in the home win. Riley leads IPSC in scoring (4 goals, 3 assists) and was named to the UWS Team Of The Week for the third time this campaign.
SATURDAY, JULY 8
Indy Premier SC vs. Grand Rapids FC Women
7:00 PM EDT – Park Tudor School (Indianapolis, IN)
Even though Grand Rapids FC Women (7-1-1 Midwest) have already captured the conference crown, they still have particulars to play for: they not only will host the Midwest playoffs, but the UWS National Championship (July 21-22) as well. But they are not guaranteed a spot in the tournament, so its either winning the four-team playoffs they will host or post as an impressive record as they can to stake claim to the “wild card” spot into the UWS Championship. The fourth team will be determined by a number of criteria (record, strength of schedule, travel concerns, etc.) and with a strong showing to conclude the season, the GRFC Women can have the best shot at two different opportunities to get into the championship and win the UWS title in their first-ever campaign.
This will be the first meeting of the year between Indy Premier SC and Grands Rapids FC. If IPSC is victorious on Friday night, the visitors will face a motivated opponent as the home side may still have a outside shot at the fourth spot in the conference playoffs. If Indy Premier is going to pull the upset against the GRFC Women, they will have to break the impressive winning streak the latter team is on. Grand Rapids has won their last four games, out-scoring the competition by a 15-1 margin. GRFC has been led by the late season scoring run by midfielder Bethany Balcer, who has tallied three straight hat tricks.
SUNDAY, JULY 9
Michigan Legends FC vs. FC Indiana
2:00 PM EDT – Legacy Center (Brighton, MI)
Two games ago, it appeared the FC Indiana (4-5 Midwest) were in rock solid position to qualify for the four-team Midwest playoffs and possibly even challenge Detroit Sun FC (5-1-3 Midwest) for the second seed. But two disappointing losses to end their home campaign has resulted and the long-time soccer organization face a uncertain fate this weekend – even though they occupy third-place in the standings. Only a win in Sunday afternoon’s regular season finale against a fellow playoff contender in Michigan Legends FC will guarantee FCI a spot in the playoffs. A draw may be enough to qualify, depending on other results.
This will be the first meeting of the year between FC Indiana and Michigan. With a postseason berth on the line, both teams have not been in the best form. FCI dropped a 3-2 loss to fellow playoff contender Toledo Villa FC last Saturday in their home finale, while Fort Wayne notched their second win of the season on June 21st in a 2-1 contest at Newton Park. Michigan lost by a 4-3 score to Indy Premier last Friday but did manage a 0-0 draw against second-place Detroit on Saturday, June 24th.
Detroit Sun FC vs. Toledo Villa FC
4:00 PM EDT – Ultimate Soccer Arenas (Pontiac, MI)
Like Grands Rapids FC, Detroit’s postseason fate has already been decided, as after last Sunday’s impressive win over Fort Wayne, the Sun wrapped up second-place in the conference race and #2 seed in the four-team Midwest playoffs. Forward Madison Schupbach led the Detroit offense in the victory, tallying two goals and two assists at Ultimate Soccer Arenas, and midfielder Alyssa Burke chipped in with the first two goals of the match. Schupbach’s 21 points (eight goals, five assists) on the season is now tied for second in league scoring. Sun goalkeeper Krystin Lawrence made seven saves in her season debut – and was also credited with an assist on forward Devyn Brough’s goal in the 60th minute.
But also like the GRFC Women, Detroit will want to post as impressive record to finish not only the regular season but the postseason with the “wild card” spot also looming as a potential opportunity to qualify for the UWS National Championship. Toledo will also have motivation on their side, as they will still be in a position to qualify for the Midwest playoffs even if they lose on Friday night – but FC Indiana will have to lose to Michigan Legends FC earlier in the afternoon. In that case, a win over Detroit will do for the Villa Women. If FCI draw with Michigan, Toledo must win to force the tiebreak procedure.