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After loss, Charlotte Lady Eagles go for 3rd place

By Curry Shoff
cshoff@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/25/11/19/1jvrKx.Em.138.jpeg|214
    JEFF WILLHELM -
    The Charlotte Eagles begin practice Wednesday evening at Charlotte Latin in preparation for Friday’s semifinal game.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/25/11/18/c8oBk.Em.138.jpeg|209
    JEFF WILLHELM -
    The Charlotte Eagles begin practice with a devotional moment. The Charlotte Lady Eagles are a women's elite soccer team that competes in the W-League of the United Soccer Leagues (USL). The W-League is a national pro-am women's league with teams across the US and Canada. The Lady Eagles are in their 15th season.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/25/11/19/199FpJ.Em.138.jpeg|380
    JEFF WILLHELM -
    Charlotte Eagles goalie Robyn Jones (left) and center back Amanda Naeher (right) are leading players in the W-League of the United Soccer Leagues (USL). The Lady Eagles play Friday night against the undefeated Los Angeles Blues at the IMG Academy Stadium in Bradenton, Fl., in their first Final Four game since 2006. If they win, they will play a team from either Ottawa or Washington D.C. for the national championship on Sunday.

Three months ago, the Charlotte Lady Eagles discussed goals for the 2014 season. Among them: Making the United Soccer Leagues’ W-League Final Four tournament and winning the national championship.

On Friday night, the Lady Eagles fell to the defending champion Los Angeles Blues 4-0 at IMG Stadium in Bradenton, Fla., in the semifinals, ending hopes of competing for a national championship. The Lady Eagles will have an opportunity to take home third place on Sunday at noon.

The Lady Eagles, a team of local amateur women athletes ranging from ages 18-31, won the Southeastern division with a record of 5-4-1 and advanced to the Final Four behind the leadership of coach Lee Horton, goalie Robyn Jones and defender Amanda Naeher.

“I think it is the perfect culmination of what we have done as a group this season,” Naeher said. “That was one of our goals at the beginning of the year. We wanted to make it to the final game and maximize our season.”

Naeher, who coaches varsity soccer at Charlotte Christian, is in her fourth season with the Lady Eagles, a team built around 12 college players and 12 post-college players. In the past four years, she has played three positions for the team and has won conference honors in each of those seasons.

Horton, who coaches against Naeher at Charlotte Latin, believes her role as a veteran has been essential for team success.

“Amanda has a lot to her game,” said Horton, who is in his 15th season coaching the Lady Eagles. “She can do it all. She plays defense. She can score goals. I would say the number one thing she brings to our team is her leadership.”

Naeher says that her coaching experience can be an asset for the team, but doesn’t think that it causes any discomfort around the younger players.

“There are several girls on the team that are about a year or two older than the girls I coach,” she said. “What I appreciate about them is that they don’t hold me to a different standard.”

The Lady Eagles will have one more chance to compete together in a consolation match against Ottawa on Sunday at 12 – ending what has been a successful season for the club. The game can be streamed online at the W-League’s official website.

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