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Dutch Lions celebrate 2nd season success

July 20, 2018
By CJ HADDAD (cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

In just its second campaign as a club, the local Florida Gulf Coast Dutch Lions captured its first Sunshine Conference title in the Women's Premier Soccer League, finishing with a 5-1-1 record.

The team's season came to an end this past week after a heartbreaking 2-0 loss to Pensacola FC, the eventual South Regional Champions.

Despite the loss, Dutch Lions director of soccer operations and head coach Vincent de Weger is proud of how far the club has come in only two seasons.

Article Photos

2018 Florida Gulf Coast Dutch Lions FC Women's Team

"At the end of our first season, we said to each other that we want to be better and be more competitive the second year," he said. "That it results in a championship and only one loss in seven games is truly amazing and was something we hoped for. All the credit to my staff members and players for their hard work."

The Dutch Lions kicked off their season in winning fashion with a 2-0 home victory over Florida Tropics SC, thanks to two second half goals from Vesna Veltrop and Kylee Rullo.

Scoring in the second half would become a regular occurrence for the Dutch Lions, as 10 of their 11 goals over the seven regular season games came after the 45th minute.

The second game of the year would give the squad it's only regular season loss as the impressive Tampa Bay United came to town and got off to a quick start.

The Dutch Lions found themselves down 2-0 after just nine minutes of play and could only muster a goal in the 88th minute off the foot of Yvonne Ploeg.

A spark was lit from the loss and the Dutch Lions ripped off a four-game winning streak, outscoring its opponents 11-1 from June 9 to July 1.

Each game their offense turned it up a notch, starting with a 1-0 road win against the Florida Krush, with Silvana Gordon providing the winning tally for the Dutch Lions to ignite their winning streak.

Gordon was named Sunshine Conference Player of the Week.

Next, Team Boca Blast came to town and took a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute, but the Dutch Lions Zoey Spitzer brought it back to even in the 26th.

Ploeg buried the game-winner in the 65th minute from Gordon and the team found themselves on a winning streak.

Goalkeeper Casey Winn made 11 saves, including a penalty-kick stop in the 79th minute. The performance earned her Sunshine Conference Player of the week.

Florida Sol FC was next in line to try and topple the Lions, but was unsuccessful in doing so as it was handed a 3-0 loss due to lightning and scheduling issues, which was only a precursor to the offensive explosion in their next match.

The Lions headed to Ward Park just north of Orlando to take on Puerto Rico Pride FC, which was no match for the Dutch Lions.

Goals from Rullo, Spitzer, Mariah Marrero and a pair from Gordon resulted in a 5-0 victory and the local squad's highest goal output in club history.

Spitzer and Marrero also had assists, as well as Veltrop and two from Kianna Magner.

Magner earned Sunshine Conference Player of the Week honors from her midfield position due to her pair of assists and pin-point passing over the 90 minutes.

The final game of the regular season was a road match against FC Surge, which resulted in a 0-0 tie but a Sunshine Conference title, an impressive feat in just the second season in the WSPL.

"For me as head coach, this was a season with a lot of highlights. If we see how well the team played together, but also how they behaved outside the field, that is something that makes me really proud," de Weger expressed. "As head coach you always want that the team is competitive but also has a great time together. Feeling comfortable with each other will help you reach new heights. I think that we as staff succeed in that. The players did an amazing job if we look to fitting the play style but also by taking their responsibilities on and off the field."

Goalkeeping, paired with a potent offense, were the keys to success for the Dutch Lions in the 2018 campaign, something that de Weger has preached to his group of talented athletes.

The team allowed 14 goals in 2017 and had a minus-4 goal differential.

This year, the club only allowed three goals and had a plus-11 mark in the same category-they also did not allow a goal in the second half all of the regular season.

"I focused a lot on high pressure and making sure that the opponent is far away from our goal," de Weger said. "That is why I am really happy with how the team defended. The pressure as a team was from a high quality and that made me happy. Combine that with the incredible season that Casey Winn, our goalkeeper, had and you find the reason for only three goals against us."

The Lions also scored more goals than last season, thanks to the skilled Gordon, Spitzer and Rullo.

"Zoey and Silvana know each other and that helped in our attacking line. From Kylee Rullo, we knew she could score a lot. But scoring is also something you don't do alone. Kianna Magner gave the most assists and besides that, everybody will always remember the free kick from Marianna Scine that led to the goal of Zoey. But it is great to have Silvana, Zoey and Kylee as my wingers. It gives us options in our attack and at the end of the day, they are difficult to defend, because they all play different," de Weger praised of his front line.

For the second year in a row, the Dutch Lions had the highest fan attendance out of any team in the Sunshine Conference at their home in North Fort Myers Community Park.

Over 450 people came out to each game in support of the club, and the club also gave back to the community.

"We raised money for people who have cancer and have problems paying their bills," de Weger said. "We partnered up with Florida Cancer and we organized a charity game for a youth player who is really sick."

As for what the future holds, de Weger is determined to avenge the playoff loss and continue to bolster the Dutch Lions to be a force in the Sunshine Conference for years to come.

"With the disappointment that we had last Sunday, we look forward to creating a better team with more attacking qualities and try to make it further than this year. But we always keep an eye on development, community feeling and Orange Family feeling."

The organization also hosts a youth academy in Cape Coral for youngsters looking to improve their skill set, or to just give the sport a try.

All youth academy information, as well as the women's team information, can be found at www.fgcdlfc.com.

 
 
 

 

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