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Last Friday evening, fans flocked to Finney-Campbell Field for an historic soccer game: the inaugural Wawa United FC vs women’s club soccer derby.

Wawa United is a soccer club made up of Princeton students, which was founded last year by Jonny Hopcroft ’20, the current team captain. The team normally plays its games in a local recreational league.

The stakes had been set by a preceding week of speculation and anticipation. Carson Clay ’19, a member of the women’s team, previewed the game as a “Battle of the Sexes,” while teammate Rucha Alur ’20 explained that, “If we lose, I’m going to be really, genuinely disappointed.” Meanwhile, score predictions were being thrown around like empty promises in a USG election campaign. Wawa’s social chair, Matan Grinberg ’20, laid out perhaps the most ambitious forecast the day before the game, declaring, “I think we [Wawa United] will win 7–0…. We can do it.”

Clay is a writer for The Daily Princetonian’s Street section.

When specially appointed referee Ale Tenconi-Gradillas ’21 blew the starting whistle, coaches of both sides looked to decipher the opposition’s tactical setup. This task was made considerably easier as a drone was sent into the sky to capture bird’s-eye-view footage of the game. After a fractious opening period, Wawa center-half Jan Domingo Alsina ’20 managed to break the deadlock. Exploiting his 8-inch height advantage over his counterpart on the opposing, Domingo stood tall to “head” home from the corner (the ball actually deflected in off his shoulder).

Despite Wawa’s early lead, women’s club soccer was clearly a strong competitor, and it quickly showed itself to be a well-drilled unit. Technical prowess was complemented by physical intensity, as defender Naomi Cohen-Shields ’20 let Tom Salama ’20 know who was in charge with an early tackle, sending the helpless Wawa playmaker to the ground. The women were rewarded for their efforts, as Natalie O’Leary ’21 capitalized on a piece of suspect goalkeeping to stab home the equalizer from close range.

Salama is a former opinion writer for the ‘Prince.’

However, after the team snatched a goal through Dan Sitbon-Taylor ’21, Wawa United led 2–1 at half-time. With manager Matthew Timo ’20 barking instructions to his players through a megaphone, Wawa looked revitalised in the second half. Hopcroft attributes the change in fortunes to his tactical reshuffle.

“I told them we were switching to a 4–5–1 in the second half,” he explained at full-time, “this really helped us in the center of midfield.” From side-line observation, however, the tactics seemed similar to the previous strategy; Wawa kicked the ball forwards and ran towards the opposition goal. The only difference was that they did so with more energy and intent. Salama and Gabe Birman ’20 finished off chances to make the score 4–1, before Lorenzo Munoz ’21 put the nail in the coffin for the women’s team. The crowd looked surprised by his genuinely skillful goal, as an exquisite half-volley rifled home the ball into the roof of the net.

Sadly, the match ended with hints of controversy, after the integrity of referee — and friend of Hopcroft — Tenconi-Gradillas, was brought into question. Screams of injustice reverberated around Finney-Campbell Field. “Two of the goals were clearly offside — why do you want them to win?” exclaimed one angry pitch-side fan. The ruling was irreversible, despite drone footage of the offside goals. Hopcroft was quick to assert that, “As with Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup Final, these controversies shouldn’t obscure what was a momentous and significant win for the club.”

Women’s defender Celeste Claudio ’20 carries the scars of last Friday’s tough encounter, a soccer ball imprint still patterning her leg. Women’s club soccer will be keen to avenge its loss in the next chapter of this newly constructed rivalry, and if the first game is anything to go by you definitely won’t want to miss it.

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