Patriots FC Girls’ Soccer Team Wins U18 National Championship in Florida 

Back in February, River Journal published a story about Patriots FC, a girls soccer club team made up of student-athletes mostly from Irvington, Ardsley, and Hastings-on-Hudson  

At the time, the narrative was the team embracing the underdog mentality, competing in one of the country’s most prestigious national tournaments, but ultimately falling short of winning it all.  

This year brought a better result for these underdogs: a national championship.  

In their impressive run to the top, Patriots FC won all fives games and allowed just one goal all tournament. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that the end of the season could not have gone much better.  

“Last year was more of a steppingstone after we won the regionals, and it was a great insight into how we should prepare this year to win,” said Coach Mike Friedlander. “This year, we had a totally different mentality from day one.”  

Heading down to Florida, in the summertime heat of Orlando, was a challenge right away for the squad. But just like the team has done all season, they made adjustments that allowed the girls to play their best soccer throughout the entire tournament run.  

“We used all 20 players throughout the course of the week,” said Phil Bannister, team president. This proved to be important not only because of the grueling weather, but because of a need for roster depth as well.  

Earlier in the season, Sofia Rosenblatt, one of the team’s top players, was lost for the year due to a torn ACL. Instead of folding and wondering how the team was going to continue its success, the coaching staff retained an immense amount of confidence in its roster.  

“[After Rosenblatt’s injury], other players just had to step up and some had to change positions on the field,” added Bannister. “Every single player started at least one game in the tournament as well.”  

“[Yet] our culture and focus was there for the tournament. Our culture is always to be locked in 110%,” Friedlander said about the team’s mentality after losing such a valuable player on the field.  

Despite being scrappy underdogs from Westchester, competing against much larger towns, cities, and schools from throughout the United States, this did not deter the Westchester girls from thinking they could be the last team standing.  

As underdogs, the team carried a big chip on their shoulder ever since the tournament began. Some of the larger schools looked down upon Patriots FC, with one team all but certain they’d come out with the win even after they trailed 2-0 in the game. As much as Friedlander and Bannister’s squad saw themselves as underdogs, so did the opposition.  

Further adding to this point is that the roster has mostly been the same over the past few years, rather than bringing in superstars from other teams – which is a strategy some teams defer to. The Patriots have chosen to build the team from the ground up, truly earning their way to prominence.  

Bringing in players from outside the geographical area solely for the sake of winning has never been this team’s style of operating. The squad looks to return a very formidable roster next season, even while losing a few seniors to graduation.  

But before next season begins, the team – players and coaching staff, alike – have a lot of fond memories from this magical run down south.  

“To be honest, I expected to win,” said Friedlander. “[Finally winning it all] was a bittersweet moment for me.” 

Along the way, the team was able to pick up a number of lessons that apply both on and off the soccer pitch.  

Teamwork. Embracing leadership. Stepping up one’s performance in the face of adversity. These are skills and qualities that will undoubtedly aid the girls as they move on to college and beyond.  

“I’m proud of how they started and that they could believe they could win it all,” remarked Bannister.  

“You should set the bar as high as you can; you might actually get there,” added Friedlander. “[For many], the failure to succeed is more often than the desire to prevail.” 

The desire to prevail is exactly what these underdogs had and prevail they did.  

The underdog mentality served this team quite well.  

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About the Author: Alex Horowitz