Fury has eye on ultimate prize

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

The road to the ultimate prize is surely daunting.

But Kelly Parker couldn't be more confident about it all, more certain that the Fury has the right stuff to finish the job this time.

"This is the strongest team we've ever had," the Fury midfielder said before the W-League side made its way down to Mercer County Community College yesterday to take dead aim at a second straight Eastern Conference championship.

"It looks really good for us. We're excited and we can't wait to get there."

The Fury has become a W-League powerhouse in the past three seasons, reaching the North American finals each season. But this might be its toughest path yet to a berth in the Final Four.

The hosts for the Eastern Conference championships are none other than the New Jersey Wildcats, the defending W-League champs, who went a perfect 14-0 this season. The 'Cats outscored seven foes 35-1 this season at the Mercer pitch in West Windsor, N.J.

Even the Fury's semi-final opponent tonight, the West Mass Lady Pioneers, is no pushover. The Pioneers posted a solid 10-3-1 record, including a pair of tight 2-1 losses to the Wildcats.

Rounding out the group of four are the Long Island Lady Riders, who upset the Boston Renegades 1-0 on Wednesday to earn a shot at New Jersey in tonight's second semi-final.

The two winners meet tomorrow at 5 p.m., with only the survivor qualifying for next weekend's W-League finals in Vancouver.

"We have a lot of expectations to get back to the Final Four," said Parker, 25. "But we know it's a longer road this time."

Not that the Fury isn't equipped to get the job done. Parker insists it's a side that is hitting its stride at precisely the right time.

"We've added a couple of key players (this season) and that's made a big impact," said Parker, whose goal started the Fury on its way to a 3-2 win over Toronto in the Northern Division final on Wednesday night. "We changed our formation and that's made us stronger."

Anyone who's followed the Fury knows its history in W-League finals, but it bears repeating at this point -- fourth in 2003, third in 2004 and runners-up a year ago. Parker agrees anything less than a championship won't be acceptable now.

"Of course, it would be disappointing (to fall short again)," she said. "This has been the accumulation of four years of hard work ... it's been the motivation for everyone to keep coming back."


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