There was considerable disappointment, yes, but San Diego Wave FC knew they had just wrapped up a remarkable season nevertheless.
Immediately following Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Portland Thorns in the NWSL playoff semifinals, in which new mom Crystal Dunn came off the bench and eventually scored the winner for her team in stoppage time, there were tears from Wave FC, but they kept their heads held high.
“I mean, I think we’re just getting started,” midfielder Taylor Kornieck told reporters after the game. “With all of my heart, I wish we could have went to that final but like I said before, I think it shows a lot about us. It shows a lot about Casey, shows a lot about the staff and how everybody just came together and made this such a successful winning team and I just couldn’t be more proud of everybody on this team. And I can’t wait for February, when we get back out there because we have something so special here and I’m so fortunate to be a part of it.”
Kornieck got San Diego off to a dream start, scoring an early goal with an unmarked header off an Alex Morgan cross. But Portland came back, thanks to two “worldies,” as head coach Casey Stoney and Kornieck both noted.
But as the first-ever true NWSL expansion team to make the playoffs and advance to the final four, Stoney could appreciate the immense progress made on the field in one year.
“My players are a privilege to work with every single day, what they stand for, what they fight for, who they are as people, who they are as characters, the way they work so hard every day,” Stoney said in the postgame press conference while flanked by two of her kids. “What they’ve been able to do to grow and improve, it’s not many teams that can do what we do to go in front [today] and obviously unfortunately losing in the dying minutes is absolutely devastating and gutting so yeah...My family here, which is a bonus, but at the same time, it’s been a real challenge [to be separated from my family] this year for me personally. But having said that, I think what makes it easier is I worked with incredible women every single day.”
With Wave FC going to 120 minutes a week earlier in their debut playoff game, it seemed heavy legs caught up with the players in the 2nd half Sunday on the Providence Park turf, and Stoney said in hindsight, there may have been a need to bring in fresh players somewhat earlier.
But Kornieck, who was perhaps the most improved player in the NWSL this season and leveraged her play with Wave FC to become a U.S. Women’s National Team player, credited her work with Stoney, the supportive atmosphere in San Diego, and her own work on herself with helping her take her game to new heights this year.
“It’s my third year in the league and I think this year in particular, just being coached by Casey, I think she has done incredible things for me,” Kornieck said. “I really didn’t think I had it in me if you would ask me a year ago. I went through a hard time but coming here and playing for this team, playing for this coach, playing for all these girls and how much support they have for me and and through the whole team it’s just it’s kind of hard not to have a bad year here. So I I just can’t thank my team enough. I can’t thank Casey enough for everything she’s done for me. And how much work she’s put in on and off the field with me and and I just think I’ve been working a lot on my mental health and I think that’s a big part of how I got to be here right now.
“So I’m just going to keep moving forward, keep pushing and we’re really excited for next season,” she added.
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