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U18 Girls Reach Regional Semi Finals

By Midwest United, 04/11/17, 12:30AM EDT

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Midwest United FC – Kalamazoo’s U18 girls soccer team made history this past fall when it captured the club’s second State Cup trophy. 

The girls took their memorable, record-setting year to another level this past week at the 2016 US Youth Soccer Region II Championships in Indianapolis. 

Midwest United FC – Kalamazoo reached the semifinal stage of the championships, falling to Omaha FC, the Nebraska state champs, 2-1. 

“The significance is that players from Southwest Michigan can compete at the highest level nationally, not just locally or at the state level,” said coach Rich Labadie, who also serves at the club’s director of soccer operations and director of coaching“This proves they can be those types of players and it sets the tone for future players.”  

The tournament featured 13 state champions from across the Midwest and three alternate selections broken into four pools. Each group winner advanced to the semifinals. 

While many teams did not have to make any sort of transition, Midwest United FC – Kalamazoo made a major adjustment as the U18 girls switched from playing high school to travel in a matter of a few weeks. 

“We put together a solid approach and they trained probably nine times before we left,” Labadie said. “They took it all in really well. I think that was key to us coming in and not losing a step.” 

The girls kicked off play on June 24 with a 3-0 win over the Indiana state cup winners. They followed that performance with a 1-1 tie over Missouri the next day, setting up an epic clash with the Michigan Jaguars, one of the alternate selections and a familiar foe for the U18 girls. 

Midwest United FC – Kalamazoo jumped out to an early lead behind two goals from Mackenzie Swinehart, but the Jaguars rallied for two goals before halftime. 

Following two red cards, one to each team, the Jaguars took a 3-2 lead. Needing a victory to advance, Midwest United FC – Kalamazoo’s Ava Cook and Swinehart each scored to secure the 4-3 win. Grace Labadie assisted all four goals.  

“I think that was a more meaningful win for everybody,” Labadie said when comparing the team’s two wins over the Michigan Jaguars. “It was the game that gave everybody the belief that anything could happen.” 

The only other time Midwest United FC – Kalamazoo captured a State Cup trophy was in 1987 when Labadie was a midfielder playing for coach Neil Ridgway. Labadie and Ridgway were both a piece of the U18’s girls coaching staff and this entire year was undoubtedly one to remember. 

“When we went to regionals, we had an opening ceremony that was pretty cool, but after that it was like any other weekend playing soccer,” Labadie said. “This was huge, this was a big deal. 

“The achievement was monumental because it’s never been done.”