Fury focused on title

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:03 AM ET

They might never get a better shot than this. And the Ottawa Fury sure know it.

The Fury enter this weekend's W-League North American championship as the No. 1 seed. They'll face the expansion Central Florida Krush in one of two semi-finals tonight at Mercer Community College in Princeton, N.J.

The other semi is a rematch of last year's final in Ottawa -- the host New Jersey Wildcats vs. the defending champ Vancouver Whitecaps.

The final goes Sunday at 7 p.m.

For the Fury, it's their third straight appearance in the Final Four. Two years ago, they placed fourth; a year ago, they moved up to third. There's no question about what the goal is this time.

"It's our third crack at it," said midfielder Rhian Wilkinson, who led the W-League in scoring in the regular season with 38 points. "For some teams, just getting (to the Final Four) would be a victory. But that's not the case for us. We want to win."

The Fury rolled through the regular season with a 13-1-0 record. Perhaps the most significant result: A 1-0 blanking of the Wildcats in the season finale. New Jersey's roster is the most star-studded in the league, featuring U.S., Canadian and British internationals.

"They're the Real Madrid of our league," said Wilkinson. "Being able to not only play with them but beat them, too, was very good for our confidence. It's the best thing that could have happened to us."

The Whitecaps are no slouches, either, with 14 Canadian national team players in their lineup, including Kara Lang, Andea Neil, Katie Thorlakson and Brittany Timko. Central Florida features U.S. national teamers Danielle Fotopoulos and Heather Mitts.

But the Fury believe they're bringing their strongest team yet into the fray. Wilkinson and midfielder Kelly Parker were the top two scorers in the league, with Parker, midfielder Diana Matheson and defender Linda Consolante named Eastern Conference all-stars on Wednesday.

The core of the past two Final Four sides remains virtually intact, backstopped by national team 'keeper Taryn Swiatek.

Two more national teamers, Carmelina Moscato and Veronique Maranda joined the squad this season.

"It's by far the best team we've had," said Parker, one of the W-League's top sharpshooters with 45 goals over the past three seasons. "I know some big-name players that wanted to play here, but we couldn't account for everyone. We had to turn down players we would have died to have in previous seasons."

Said team owner/CEO John Pugh: "This is definitely our best shot yet at bringing home the title."

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com

W-LEAGUE FINAL FOUR

WHERE: Mercer Community College, Princeton, N.J.

TEAMS (seedings in parentheses): Ottawa Fury (1), New Jersey Wildcats (2), Vancouver Whitecaps (3), Central Florida Krush (4)

SCHEDULE: Tonight (semi-finals) -- Ottawa vs. Central Florida, 5 p.m.; New Jersey vs. Vancouver, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday -- Consolation final, 4:30 p.m.; Final, 7 p.m.

TV: Sunday's title match will be televised by Fox Sports World Canada. An audio webcast of tonight's semi-final is available at www.teamline.cc/teampages. html?teamcode=0851


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