The 2023 Salvo WPSL season came to a close mid-July on a Sunday night in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The team was contending for a WPSL National Championship, after winning the WPSL Central Conference Finals in Milwaukee, WI the weekend before, but ended up coming just short and losing 1 - 0 to the Charlotte Eagles.
Finishing second in the conference, Salvo advanced into the WPSL Playoffs due to the team that finished first defaulting and not wanting to travel to the away games in Milwaukee. The Sweet Sixteen game was a good matchup between Salvo and Milwaukee Torrent, who were wonderful hosts of the Central Conference Championships.
Salvo dominated the game vs the Torrent, controlling the tempo and the possession most of the match, but couldn't find the back of the net. The game headed to extra time (exactly like the match before between Colorado Rapids, who ended up scoring in the dying moments of ET, and KC Current) under the lights and was still knotted at 0-0 after 120 minutes of play.
Heading to a penalty shootout, the team was feeling prepared as they walked through this exact scenario hours before in the warm up training that morning. Both teams were perfect through 5 shooters, so they headed to sudden death penalties. The Milwaukee Torrent crowd and drum line were loud as the 7th shooter stepped up to take her shot (Torrent decided to shoot first), but goalkeeper and current Salvo Girls Academy player Ayden Gagner dove to her left to make the save. This opened the door for Bella Meier, who currently plays at the University of Saint Thomas, to bury her shot and send us to the regional championship, and she did just that! The team was fired up to face Colorado Rapids for the second year in a row in the Conference Championship.
It was another hot day in Milwaukee, but Salvo was up to the task. The first half was very open, lots of transitional moments and chances for both sides, but the teams headed into the locker room knotted 0-0. The second half was a tactical masterclass from coach Greg Wheaton and the team, who stifled the strong attack from the Rapids and counterattacked quickly, with Khyah Harper netting two goals to bring the Conference Championship home for the first time in our 5 year history in the league! Her brace sent the team to Oklahoma where Salvo would compete for a National Championship.
A week and a long bus ride later, Salvo arrived at the Oklahoma State facilities to watch the USWNT kick off their Women's World Cup journey. The next morning, the team completely dominated the National Semifinal vs SC Del Sol with a decisive 2 - 0 win, goals coming from Khyah Harper again and Katelyn Beukle, also a current Salvo Girls Academy player.
Salvo playing for a WPSL Championship is no accident, lots of time, resources, and talent make up a strong squad that is led by phenomenal coaches, and the team felt ready to bring home the big trophy to Minnesota. It was a tough battle against the Charlotte Eagles, both teams alike in their athleticism and movement off the ball. Salvo was awarded a free kick in the 70th minute and took it quickly, scoring and taking the lead in the National Championship, but unfortunately, the referee called it back over a controversial decision that he was impeding the play. Salvo conceded in the 94th minute off of a tough series of missed clearances, and ended up falling to the Charlotte Eagles.
Advancing to the National Championship in the team's fifth year is an incredible accomplishment and testament to the effort and intentionality every single person involved in the organization brings every day.
Stay tuned to the Salvo WPSL social media channels (@SalvoWPSL on X (Twitter) and Instagram) to stay connected with our players throughout their college and professional seasons this fall!
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