Grand Rapids OLè - NFPL Women's Champions

by Matt Aldrich

The Inaugural NFPL Women's Season Has Crowned A Champion!

A historic women's futsal season came to a finish in Michigan on Sunday, March 19th as the Grand Rapids OLè Women defeated the Futsal Factory Women by a score of 5-3. These two teams have been neck-and-neck throughout the entire season, sweeping aside the ladies of Columbus Futsal and Futsal Indy en route to the championship game. 

The Championship game was a battle from the opening kick - hard challenges combined with high-level technical and tactical futsal, exactly what you'd expect from these two top teams. 

Grand Rapids OLè opened the scoring through Shelly Vargas, tallying her 6th goal of the season. She did excellently to bring down a long ball from Mari Meza with her first touch, beat her defender with her second, and poke the ball into the net beyond Brooklynn Harding for her third. 

Futsal Factory tied the game up 3 minutes later as Beanie Harshe, a threat all day up top, scored on a first-time finish at the near post from a corner kick. 

The two teams went blow for blow through the remainder of the first half. Morgan Scholten did well to save from a close-range effort from Micayla Johnson, but she would eventually break through the OLè defense, dancing beyond two defenders and giving Scholten no chance on the finish to take a 2-1 lead into halftime. 

Futsal Factory would end up regretting giving up the game from such a promising position after a first half that had nullified a strong Grand Rapids OLè attack for long stretches. An early chance for Nicole Grimaldo was well-saved by Mia Quintana, subbed in between the posts for OLè. They would certainly rue that chance as moments later the game flipped on its head.

An uncharacteristic mistake at the back for Futsal Factory presented Margaret Periard with a one-on-one opportunity against Harding in net. Periard cut back, Harding slid, Periard fell, and Harding was shown a red card. 

With Jasmyn Goldsmith forced off the field and into goal, Grand Rapids OLè made matters worse by scoring off the free kick as Citlali Luna made no mistake and buried it into the bottom corner to tie the game at 2 goals each.

Less than a minute later, Grand Rapids had turned it around. Another quality save from Quintana set OLè off on the break. Vargas played a ball into space for Meza to run onto and shoot between Goldsmith's legs to take the lead

Futsal Factory continued to play their game and created chances, especially with Goldsmith pushing forward as a flying goalkeeper into the final 5 minutes. Despite the player advantage, it was OLè taking the decisive two-goal lead through Khloe Koelling running onto a loose ball and carrying it the length of the court before finishing into the far corner. With under 5 minutes to play, it was now or never for Futsal Factory. 

Chasing the game and needing to press, Futsal Factory left themselves exposed at the back and Grand Rapids OLè dutifully sliced them open. Mari Meza's excellent through ball was finished by Margaret Periard to put the game to bed with just over a minute remaining. 

Beanie Harshe would bring one back for Futsal Factory from the penalty spot with half a minute remaining, but they wouldn't get any closer than that and Grand Rapids OLè celebrated the first NFPL Women's Championship.

After the game, NFPL Commissioner Drew Ducker had this to say:

"We're so proud of the inaugural NFPL Women's Division and the season has been a great success. Every team deserves a big congratulations for being a part of this extraordinary moment in US Futsal history. It's great to see so many talented women playing at a high level and the future is incredibly bright for women's futsal and the NFPL.

Grand Rapids OLè proved they were the best team this year and deserving of the championship, and congratulations to them.

We also would like to thank the clubs, the owners, and most importantly the fans for the support this season and we are eager to continue forging the path for women's futsal next season."
  -  Drew Ducker, NFPL Commissioner