The year 2023 has been kind to Caitlyn Boucher.
The rising Severna Park senior found a college soccer home and hopes to close the year with a successful final run as a Falcons girls soccer player.
In the middle, she helped her club team win some national hardware.
Boucher and her Maryland United U17 Elite Clubs National Team, or ECNL, overcame stiff opposition and rallied from a goal down in the final to win the ECNL North American Cup in San Diego on June 29.
Maryland United beat Classics Elite (San Antonio, Texas) 2-0 in the first round, Davis Legacy (California) 1-0 in the quarterfinals, Ohio Premier 3-1 in the semifinals, and Oklahoma Energy 3-2 in the championship.
The North American Cup is akin to professional soccer's Europa League. Maryland United qualified for the tournament by finishing fourth in the ECNL's North Mid-Atlantic Conference.
The tournament format was simple, but switching tournament mentalities wasn't easy.
"If you lost your first game, you were out [of the championship], even though everyone was guaranteed three games because that's a long way to fly just to go out," Boucher said. "Most of our ECNL tournaments are strictly showcases for college recruiting. It was more pressure than normal because here you really are there to win. It was fun in a sense because we don't get to compete to win something all the time, so that pressure was fun for us."
Boucher, a center back, helped marshal a defense that conceded only three goals in four games played, though two of them were in the second half of the championship game.
Maryland United equalized on a corner kick in the second half and then went ahead for good by converting a penalty kick with just minutes remaining in the game.
"Every game, just to win the game, we had to leave everything on the field," Boucher said. "All the teams we played were great, especially the final two. The last game, after the penalty, it wasn't pretty soccer. They were trying to shove it into our box, and we were just trying to clear it, give everything that we had to hold on and win."
It was Maryland United's second straight victory in the U17 age group at the North American Cup.
Boucher said the team drew inspiration from their older counterparts to win it again, and she personally hopes to take this experience into her final high school season before moving on to Campbell University in North Carolina.
"It just makes you want to win more," she said. "We haven't won a state championship since I've been [at Severna Park High]. It makes you want to share everything with the teammates in high school. I want them to have this experience too."
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