Published Jun 28, 2024

Written By:  Katie Parker
Photography By:  Noel Danseco





The drama of a near 30-year rivalry was on full display Tuesday as the two most veteran clubs in the WPSL met in Week 7’s West Region Match of the Week. The San Francisco Nighthawks hosted the California Storm at historic Kezar Stadium in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  

You could feel the tension when you walked into the stadium - as you always can when these two sides meet. 

The expected storyline of a physical, hard fought, exciting match played out perfectly. Both teams took a moment to find their footing. Once they each established their rhythm at around the 5’ mark, things got interesting.  

The Nighthawks and Storm both play possession style soccer, making it quite difficult for either to really control the game. The Storm, however, played more directly in the final third and created dangerous opportunities, but struggled to put them away. 

San Francisco Nighthawks host California Storm in Week 7 West Region Match of the Week (Noel Danseco)

The Storm’s first real chance came in the 4’ when Erica Grilione took advantage of a touch that got away from a Nighthawk’s player in midfield and sped straight to goal with the ball. Grilione took a firm, low shot that San Francisco’s goalie, Raquel Lau, had to dive, outstretched, to her left to get a hand on. 

The Nighthawks cleared the ball, but the Storm collected it and sent it back into the danger zone where Storm’s Lindsey Porter directed a header toward the back post. Lau, again fully extended, flew to her right this time and sent it out for a Storm corner. This started a series of three corner kicks in a row for the Storm and multiple huge saves by Lau. 

That was our first glimpse of the phenomenal performance Lau would put on in this game. She played like a human superhero flying through the air in every direction.           

Throughout every dangerous play the Storm created, the Nighthawks kept their composure and maintained focus on their gameplan. And through every close call that fell short, the Storm stayed patient and relentless. Still, the score remained nil-nil and stayed through a majority of the match.    

Finally, with only eight minutes left in regulation time, the California Storm got on the board. Porter took a corner and played it directly to Camryn Lancaster who was showing to, just inside the corner of the 18. As a defender closed in, Lancaster cut to her right and sent a beautifully weighted ball across the goal. Defender Nicola Hauk crashed the goal unmarked and headed the ball into the back of the net. 

“Getting that goal in from an amazing pass from Cam, just a great feeling. Especially as a defender, you don’t score that often, so that was great,” Hauk said.

The Storm went up 1-0.  

That was at 81:12. Thirty-nine seconds ran off the clock before the ball was kicked off. Once the ball was in play again, it took the Nighthawks only twenty-seven seconds to deliver an answer. 


San Francisco Nighthawks host California Storm in Week 7 West Region Match of the Week (Noel Danseco)

The Nighthawks passed seven times, moving possession up the field a little at a time. The Storm tried interrupting the passes a couple of times, but San Francisco recovered and continued pressing. Nighthawks’ Alexandria Hall received the sixth pass in this sequence. She had time and a bit of space to decide if she wanted to take her defender on or not. Instead, she dished the ball to defender Hannah McCord who was racing down the left flank. 

McCord took a couple touches forward with a Storm player closing in from behind. Then, at 82:12, she launched a left footed rocket from just outside the corner of the 18. The ball tucked under the crossbar and just over the goalie’s hands before landing in the side net of the goal. 

The score was level again, 1-1. 

“I mean, I was pissed that we gave up a goal after playing that well in the first half and coming in strong in the second half,” McCord said. “So, I was like, ‘no, we’re not ending this way, there’s 15 minutes left. Absolutely not.’ So I just went forward, beautiful pass by Ali, and put one in.”

The final eight minutes of regulation and about three minutes of stoppage time made it evident neither side wanted to settle for the draw.  

“Good game, good atmosphere, good tempo,” David Robertson, Storm head coach, said. “I think both teams were going at it. Full credit to them Nighthawks, we finally broke them down and they responded right away, a great goal.”

The crowd enjoyed the drama. Supporter chants rang out, a giant Nighthawks rally flag proudly waved on one side of the stands - as it does at every home match - handmade signs in place of tifos were on display.

This game had nearly everything, but a winning side. 

“That was definitely a game of two tough teams really trying to get something out of the game. It was a great watch for a neutral, 100%,”  Ash Watson, Nighthawks head coach, said. “The first half they [Storm] had a lot of momentum and then in the second half we were able to manage it. But it looked like two teams, derby game, trying to go after the game, trying to get three points.” 

The draw was enough to push the Nighthawks up to first place in the Pac North Conference for the time being. San Francisco only has two games remaining in the regular season while the California Storm, currently in fourth place in the conference, will play four matches in less than a week to close out theirs.