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Lewes Under-16 girls were crowned National Champions following a thrilling competition at Leicester on Sunday.
Playing in the invite only ACES tournament which is limited to League champions only from across the UK, the girls had to contend with high temperatures together with a number of tough competitive opponents who posed some different challenges to those we normally face in our league programme. Playing normal 11-a-side games limited to 22 minutes each, the girls were drawn in a tough group with their opening game against home favourites Leicester City.
Despite having the better of play, the girls fell behind early in the second half, however rescued a point with a close range finish from Chloe Evans following great work from Ellie Ramsauer. The rest of the group games were fairly even with chances at a premium at both ends, however the defence holding strong against some powerful teams and keeper Katie Burr was equal to anything that was thrown at her. Lewes secured enough points from the remaining games against Durham, Cambridge City and Bishop's Stortford to squeeze through to the quarter finals in the last qualifying spot on goal difference.
The girls now faced a quarter final against Hertingfordbury who had won the other group. However they stepped up and put on their best performance of the day so far. After an excellent opening spell, an Amy Perkins cross from the left was converted by Ellie Bonwick to put Lewes into the semi finals and the girls held on with some heroic performances in defence particularly from Beth Jago and Maisie Preston.
This pitted them against a tough Bishop's Stortford team who had narrowly beaten them in the group stages. This time the result was different with a hard fought game decided by a Molly Miller strike with five minutes to go. Lewes resisted some later pressure with Nia Hall playing a major part in bringing energy to a tired team in the closing stages and relieving opposition pressure. After six games of football over a nine-hour spell, Lewes had a final to look forward to against Durham who they had previously drawn with in the group stage In another tight game,
Durham dominated early possession; however full backs Holly Currier and Lily Smith prevented Durhams dangerous wide players from creating any clear cut chances and midfield duo Nadine Martin and Charlotte Russell dragged Lewes into the game going into the second half. Lewes were stunned when Durham took the lead with eight minutes to go; however they battled back and were awarded a penalty with less than two minutes remaining when Ellie French was brought down in the area following a great run. Ellie Ramsauer coolly converted to take to the game to a penalty shootout. After five penalties, the teams had missed one apiece; however Durham hit the bar with their sixth and Maisie Preston confidently put away the final penalty to win the trophy for Lewes.
Coach Mark Currier was impressed by the girls displays over the course of the day. "I can't praise them enough for their performances," he said. "The standard of the tournament was very high and all of the team rose to every challenge thrown at them.
"Normally we have the majority of possession in games, however in a tournament of this quality with a number of closely matched teams, we needed to understand that we would have to work hard without the ball at times on occasions and take our chances as they arose. The occasion was a massive learning curve for the girls, but their resilience and determination was outstanding and they can be justifiably proud of becoming the English Champions at this age group."
Lewes FC Board Director Charlie Dobres added: "The Girls team have been nothing short of sensational this year. To follow up their League and Cup double with this win is a testament to their talent and Mark's coaching abilities. The whole club is enormously proud of them."
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