Published Jul 24, 2022
Written By:  Andrew Mosier
             WPSL Contributor

STILLWATER, OKLA. — The Women’s Premier Soccer League is the largest women’s soccer league in the world. In 2022, 130 teams in 16 conferences across four regions kicked off the league’s 24th season with one common goal—to play for the WPSL Championship.


The last WPSL Champion was crowned at the end of the 2019 season when Pensacola FC beat Utah Royals FC Reserves 4-3 in overtime.


Over the last three months, teams have had more on the line with the return of the WPSL postseason since the pandemic. Sixteen teams qualified for the 2022 WPSL Playoffs earlier this month, and now that number has whittled down to two.


Tonight, a WPSL Champion will once again raise the Jerry Zanelli Trophy when three-time champion California Storm takes on the Colorado Rapids Women at Neal Patterson Stadium on the campus of Oklahoma State University.





For the Storm, returning to the WPSL Championship is a homecoming of sorts. Joining the WPSL in 1998 as founding members of the fledgling league, the Sacramento-based Storm built a reputation as one of the dominant teams in the West Region. Despite the consistent success on the regional level, the Storm has not advanced beyond conference play since 2005, when it lost on penalty kicks in the WPSL Final to FC Indiana.


After ending the 2021 season with a disappointing second-place finish behind league debutant Lamorinda United, the Storm entered the 2022 season re-stocked with talent and sights on the division and conference titles and beyond.


Its 2022 season didn’t start out as it hoped after a 2-2 draw on the road to longtime rival, FC Davis, but the ship was rightened four days later with the 2-1 win at home over the league’s latest expansion, Napa Valley 1839 FC.


The Storm then rolled to seven consecutive wins, scoring 26 goals and conceding only six before stumbling at home to Marin Football Club Siren in a 0-0 draw. The Storm wrapped up first place in the PAC North Conference’s Northern Division unbeaten at 8-0-2 to enter the West Region Semifinals against Desert Conference winners SC Del Sol.


Katie Hardeman scored the match’s lone goal to put the Storm through to the West Region Final, where it would need to get past league debutant MISS KICK FC from the So Cal Conference to keep its WPSL postseason alive. An early goal from Maya Doms in the 12’ minute and a solid defensive hold was all it took to give the Storm a 1-0 win and berth into the WPSL Championship Semifinals for the first time since 2005.


Before the Storm could think about holding up the Jerry Zanelli Trophy once more, it faced a strong and potent offensive front in Nashville Rhythm F.C.


Co-captain Janae Gonzalez, 2021 PAC North Conference Player of the Year winner, smashed an 18th-minute free kick to put the Storm in the lead 1-0 shortly before severe weather in the area halted the semifinal match for more than two hours.


When the match finally resumed, the Storm weathered nearly an hour-long barrage from the Nashville side, who were desperate to level the score. In the match's final moments, Nashville hit the goal post and had two balls cleared off the goal line by Storm defenders before the final whistle, sending the Storm to play for a record fourth WPSL Championship Title.



The Colorado Rapids Women may not have the heritage of their WPSL Championship opponents, but in three short years of WPSL play, the club has established itself as one of the league’s elite organizations.


After finishing second in the Mountain Conference in their debut 2019 season and a canceled 2020 season, the Rapids returned in 2021 with a vengeance by winning eight and drawing one to win the conference title. Though without a postseason due to Covid-19, the Rapids did not have the opportunity to test themselves against competition beyond that of the Mountain Conference.


Entering the 2022 season, Rapids’ new head coach Sebastian Giraldo believed he had the talent to repeat as Mountain Conference champions and further test his team against regional and national competition.


Like the Storm, the Rapids started the 2022 season with a 0-0 draw from Indios Denver FC to christen the Rapids’ new home field at Regis University.


Things went from bad to worse for the Rapids in their second match, where they lost 2-1 to Colorado Rush – also at home. It was the first loss the Rapids had suffered in more than two years, but more significantly, the Rapids have not lost since.


Giraldo remained confident despite the less-than-ideal start and assured that his team’s fortunes would turn around as it grew more accustomed to playing the up-tempo, possession-based style of play he preferred.


Fortunes began to turn around five days later when the Rapids soundly beat the Rush in the return match 2-0. The Rapids went on to win the next three matches by a margin of 11-0 before drawing to Indios Denver FC again – this time 1-1 on the road. It was the last goal the Rapids conceded in the regular season.


The Rapids finished with a 7-1-2 regular-season record by scoring 24 goals and conceding only three with eight clean sheets before traveling to Salt Lake City and defeating Wasatch Division Champion and WPSL newcomer, Utah Avalanche in the Mountain Conference championship. Mari Annest tallied a hat trick in the Rapids’ 5-1 win.


The following week the Rapids played host to the Central Region tournament, where it handed two undefeated sides their first losses to keep the WPSL Postseason alive. Adi Walick’s goal gave the Rapids its 1-0 win over Northern Conference Champions Salvo SC.


The Rapids met Kansas City Current IIMidwest Conference Champions, in the Central Region Final. Sami Feller, Claire Silverman, and Alyssa Glover all tallied for the Rapids in the 3-2 slugfest to put them through to the WPSL Championship Semifinals in Stillwater, Okla. for the first time in team history.


After a slow start in the weather-delayed semifinal, the Rapids came to life in the second half. Annest scored a bomb from thirty yards out, followed by Shiloh Miller, who doubled their lead and gave the Rapids a 2-0 win in a match that stretched past 1 AM CDT, Saturday morning and became the latest match played in league history.