“And even if we are occupied with most important things, if we attain to honour or fall into great misfortune – still let us remember how good it was once here, when we were all together, united by a kind feeling which made us … better perhaps than we are.” – Dostoyevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)
Just as they had hoped, the 1977 Raleigh Spartans were headed to West Palm Beach, Florida in the summer of 1995, but not without a little uncertainty. The team had captured their first Southern Region (III) Championship a few weeks earlier without the injured Beth Silverstein and Meredith Cage, two key contributors. But this was a bigger stage – the U-18 Girls USYSA Nationals – and the lineup looked to remain the same. Winning would be a tall task, indeed.
The Spartans did have a championship pedigree. Since 1988, numerous tournament titles had come their way, including those from WAGS, the Raleigh (N.C.) Elks and their home state. In addition, they were led by Coach Izzy Hernandez, whose Broughton High School girls had won the state 4A championship in May. Three of his players – Lindsay Stoecker, Kara Marschalk and Beth Silverstein – brought that winning experience with them. On paper, things looked fairly promising. But any team that competes at the highest level knows games are to be won on the field.
An interesting aspect of the Final Four was that the Spartans would end up playing two clubs that were recent national champions. In the semifinal it would be J.B. Marine, Region II winners from St. Louis, Missouri and U-16 Cup holders in 1993. That one ended up 4-3 for the Spartans, a tough back-and-forth affair, and it so was on to the final.
The opponent would be the De Anza Magic, representing California North and based in San Francisco. All they had done was to win the U-17 Nationals the year before. The game was on.
After 81 minutes, De Anza scores to go up 2-0. But one minute later it is Allison Osborne to Jennifer Plante to Megan Jeidy, and the Spartans are one goal down. One more minute later – you heard right – it is sweeper Sarah Currie sending a long shot over the keeper. It is 2-2 in the blink of an eye, and that is the way it would stay through 20 minutes of heart-stopping overtime.
In the unforgiving field of penalty kicks, it is Lindsay Stoecker, yes; Liz Burnette, yes; Goalkeeper Allison Wahl, yes with her save; Shannon Blair, yes; Jennifer Plante, yes. A 4-1 PK win gives the Spartans the Kelly Cup, emblematic of the U-18 U.S. championship. Megan Jeidy is Snickers MVP and Fair Play Award winner, while Coach Hernandez achieves a rare double: state and national championships in the same year. It is a winner’s time.
August 16, 1995 was declared “Raleigh Spartans Day” by Mayor Tom Fetzer.
Now, tonight, January 26, 2013, more than 17 years later, the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame inducts that team into its National Champions Hall of Honor.
Time passes. But champions stay. We honor North Carolina’s first youth soccer national titleholders, a memorable part of the summer of 1995.