The Houston Aces defeated Calgary, 3-1, in the UWS semifinals. (Photo courtesy of UWS)
GRANDVILLE, Mich. – On the strength of three unanswered goals, Southwest Conference champion Houston Aces moved onto the United Women’s Soccer National Final with a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Foothills Women’s FC at Grandville High School Saturday.
The Aces will face the Inferno Rush in the final Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Inferno defeated the defending champions Grand Rapids FC Women, 4-3, in the second semifinal.
“It’s a good group that we have here,” Houston head coach Gui Ferreria said. “They stuck to the game plan from the beginning of the game to the end of the game. All kudos to them, we haven’t really trained well together [in the build-up to the weekend] but I couldn’t be more prouder of them. One more game to get the job done tomorrow!”
Calgary jumped out to an eighth-minute lead after the West Conference champions were awarded a free kick outside of the area. Jessica Jones curled her attempt over the defender wall into the back of the net despite Houston goalkeeper Tara MacDonald getting a piece of it.
Houston started to make the game wider and utilized its speed down the flank as Gisela Arrieta and Jen LaPonte created great chances in front of goal. Arrieta came the closest in the 20th minute as the Colombian international unleashed a sharp effort off a bouncing ball in the area, only to be denied by a reflex save by Calgary goalkeeper Emily Burns.
Arrieta eventually found her name on the scoresheet as the league-leading goal-scorer latched onto a through ball from Aina Torres Pallares and put it past Burns, leveling the score in the 31st minute.
Houston continued to pile on the pressure in the final 15 minutes of the first half and got its reward in stoppage time. Paige Hayward clipped a ball over the top to Pallares, who held her run against the high Calgary defensive line before hammering her shot past Burns for a 2-1 lead.
The weather had an impact in the second half as once the teams resumed play, heavy rains drenched the field and continued to persist throughout the rest of the contest.
After weathering the storm in the early stages of the final 45 minutes, Houston added to its lead in the 64th minute. Tatiana Ariza redirected Allison Murphy’s long-distance effort past a helpless Burns.