By Charles Boehm
An intriguing assortment of competitors will vie for four trophies in the girls’ finals of the 2012 Virginia State Cup at the River City Sportsplex (formerly known as SportsQuest) in Midlothian, Va. on Sunday.
Hurricane Sandy forced these championship games to be moved back from last week’s “Finals Weekend,” so they’ve been rescheduled to Sunday, when girls’ action kicks off with top-seeded VSA Heat Blue vs. Richmond Kickers Elite (No. 3 seeds) in the Under-18 final at noon on Field #1.
Crowned U.S. Youth Soccer national champions over the summer, Heat Blue have made a habit of conquering all before them and that includes last year’s U-17 State Cup. They met and defeated Kickers Elite 4-0 in that edition’s semifinals and have been untouchable this fall, winning their first three cup matches by a combined score of 16-1.
For their part, Kickers Elite stunned the favored Herndon Firecats 2-1 in the semifinals last week and sit undefeated atop their division in Virginia Club Champions League South. It will take a special performance for them to knock off Heat Blue, however.
Sunday’s action continues with the U-17 Girls final, another clash of titans as Braddock Road Youth Club 95 Elite – U.S. Youth Soccer national champions and State Cup winners last season – meet Prince William Soccer, Inc.’s Courage 95 Gold squad (12:30 p.m., Field #4). These teams are quite familiar, having met in last year’s State Cup semifinals, an epic affair which saw BRYC 95 Elite roar back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat their PWSI rivals 3-2 in overtime.
But BRYC have suffered a bit of a championship hangover after their summer heroics, and Courage 95 Gold won their VCCL North regular-season meeting 4-0 en route to an undefeated mark atop the division. Bet on these two producing another memorable match on neutral turf.
And while they’re still duking it out, McLean 96 Force Green and PWSI Courage 96 Red (No. 2 seeds) will kick off their intriguing U-16 final clash at 2 p.m. on River City Field #1.
Coached by the legendary Ken Krieger, Courage 96 Red were cruelly denied in last year’s U-15 State Cup final by a superhuman goalkeeping exhibition from VSA Heat 96G’s Zoe Foxhall, who saved two of PWSI’s spot kicks in the penalty-kick shootout that followed a 3-3 draw in regulation. Krieger’s girls have been dominant in nearly every aspect this fall and they swept aside VCCL North rivals FASA Elite Impact 96 2-0 in last week’s semifinal.
They must contend with a real wild card on Sunday, however. Unseeded McLean 96 Force Green have the look of destiny’s child about them, having upset defending champs Heat 96G in their second cup match. But even more influentially – and controversially – coach Clyde Watson has dual-rostered some of McLean’s Elite Clubs National league (ECNL) players, a useful infusion of talent which makes this one very tough to call.
The U-15 Girls final also starts at 2 p.m. (Field #7), with the fifth-seeded Richmond Kickers Elite facing off against PWSI Courage 97 Red (No. 2 seeds), who complete their club’s trifecta of cup finalists.
Courage 97 Red’s stingy defense has yet to concede a goal in this year’s State Cup and must be considered slight favorites. Yet for their part, Kickers Elite did not allow a single strike until the semifinalists, at which point they edged top-seeded Herndon Freedom 97G in a 4-3 shootout which may provide them with decisive momentum this weekend.
Whether you’ve got a rooting interest in these four matches or not, the superb overall quality of the teams involved should prompt you to do your best to make it out to River City Sportsplex on Sunday.