2018 Ohio Valley and East Region Champions
For the first time in the club’s history, Cleveland Ambassadors reached the East Region Championships – and won!
In our inaugural year in 2016 the Ohio Valley Conference boasted some of the best players from the top schools in the nation and several contenders for the national championship. Michigan Chill had players from the Mexican national team, Motor City was built of Big 10 players and we didn’t know what to expect as our team was almost entirely Cleveland players. We finished third overall with a conference record of 5-3.
In 2017, we moved up to second with a record of 6-1-1, only two points shy of first place. The team chemistry grew and the performances were much more consistent.
In 2018, the season was a story that unfolded piece-by-piece. In the first game we trailed by two goals to Empire Revolution and had to rally as a team to walk away with a 4-2 victory. Early tests only make you stronger. While half of our team was on a mission trip to Mexico, the other half had to face Columbus at home and finished in a 3-3 tie. After four wins in a row against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Ann Arbor and Indiana, we faced an all-or-nothing game against Motor City for the conference title.
Going into the game we had never beaten Motor City in any of our previous games. Thanks to an incredible defensive performance along with a last minute goal by Sarah Krause, we won our first conference title and qualified for the Region Championships.
In the Region Semi-Final we faced the Washington Spirit Reserves. The NWSL is the USA’s professional womens league and the Washington Spirit are one of those teams but during summer they run a WPSL team for reserves and up & coming stars. As a result playing them in Washington, and with them not having lost a home game for a few years- a betting website had us down to win as a 12.5% probability. Having faced top quality opposition during the regular season, we were confident our team, made up entirely of Clevelanders, could beat anyone. In the 11th minute of the game Lani Smith (division top scorer) scored to give us the lead. From there Washington hit the crossbar and created several good chances but two goals in quick succession from Kati Druzina (73rd minute) and Lani [again] (in 86th minute) wrapped up the game with a 3-0 win. We weren’t sure whether or not it would be wise to book hotels given the caliber of our opponents but our team manager secured hotels after the 2nd goal in the semi final.
The Regional Final against SUSA (New York) was a tightly contested game with chances for both teams at a minimum. Everyone was tired from the day before but right before the 80th minute Lani Smith scored an incredible half volley from outside the box to give us the Regional Championship with 1-0 being the full time score.
We want to thank everyone involved who has contributed to the success of our players on a national stage. We are proud to bring a championship home to Cleveland!