Hun Junior Star Angelini Steps Up in Clutch, Helping PDA Team Win National Club Title
CROWNING MOMENT: Nicole Angelini kisses the trophy after her Player Development Academy (PDA) South ’02 16-U girls’ squad won its age group at the US Club Soccer NPL (National Premier Leagues) National Championship last month in Aurora, Colo. Rising Hun School junior midfielder Angelini scored on a penalty kick in the final as PDA topped GPS (Mass.) 5-0 to earn the national title.
By Bill Alden
By the time she was 10 years old, Nicole Angelini decided that she was ready to make a deeper commitment to soccer and joined the high-powered Player Development Academy program in Somerset.
“I was on a travel team in Hamilton, but I wanted to step it up,” said Angelini, now a rising junior at the Hun School. “My dad asked me if I wanted to play more seriously and how much I actually liked it. I wanted to take it up a notch and PDA was pretty close. It was a different level.”
Thriving in the program, gritty midfielder Angelini helped her PDA South ’02 16-U girls’ squad reach the highest level of club soccer last month as it won the US Club Soccer Girls NPL (National Premier Leagues) National Championship in Aurora, Colo.
The PDA team brought skill, balance, and hunger into the competition. “We have extremely talented players; I have never been on a team with better players than right now,” said Angelini.
“It was depth, with the people who came in as substitutes, the level never dropped. In past years, we had a little bit of a drop off in players. Two years ago, the national was in Colorado and we made it to the semifinal and lost on PKs. Last year in Indiana, we made it to the semifinals again and lost in overtime so it felt really good to win this year.”
The squad was primed to put those disappointing losses in the rear view mirror, showing its form in group play by defeating Real Edge Select (Colo.) 7-0, Northern Steel Storm (Pa.) 5-1, and Weston FC (Fla.) 3-2 to earn a spot in the semis.
“We said we have to make it out of our group, but once we got to the semifinals and finals, we knew there would be more competition and there would be better games,” said Angelini. “We definitely got prepared and we were ready for that.”
After defeating FC USA (Mass.) 3-0 in the semis, Angelini and her teammates faced GPS (Mass.) in the title game.
“I was definitely a little nervous being on that field but it is very fun playing with my team,” said Angelini. “We have a great time.”
Angelini produced a great moment in the final, hitting a first half penally kick to put PDA ahead 1-0.
“I was a little nervous,” said Angelini, noting that she had missed a penally kick in the semis.
“I felt pretty confident because my team was confident enough in me to have me take it.”
Sparked by Angelini’s goal, PDA eventually pulled away to a 5-0 victory and the national title.
“It was 1-0 the whole first half and a little bit into the second half so it was a pretty close game the whole game,” recalled Angelini.
“We ended up scoring a couple of goals by wearing them down. We pulled away a little bit, but it was definitely a tough game. We had to really work for it.”
Seeing the team’s work pay off with a national title was special for Angelini.
“It felt really good; we worked so hard all of the years to get there but finally being able to have something to show for it,” said Angelini.
“Even just getting to the finals, which is something we haven’t been able to do in a couple of years. It is all amazing; it made up for all of them.”
In Angelini’s view, PDA South’s self belief made it tough to beat. “No matter who we play, this team always rises to the challenge,” said Angelini.
“There is not a single team that we think we couldn’t beat. We go into every game knowing that we can win. We just have to go out there and do it and I think that helps us win more games when you have that confidence.”
Coming through in the clutch on a national stage has been a confidence builder for Angelini.
“It helps being in those pressure situations and having to rise to the challenge,” said Angelini.
“Having a PK in the first half of the national championship when it was still 0-0 was pretty nerve-wracking. Going up there and getting it makes me a lot better, knowing that I can do it. When that kind of situation arises again, I know that I can do it and I will do it.”
With Hun’s preseason training starting in a few weeks, Angelini is looking to do some big things this fall.
“Being an upperclassman this year, I hope to be one of the leader figures on the team and hopefully we can win some more games,” said Angelini, who helped the Raiders win the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title and reach the state Prep A title game in 2017.