By Jimmy LaRoue
Midlothian, Va. - BRYC 95 Elite coach Larry Best said that his team, coming off a resilient semifinal win secured via penalty-kick shootout, would not have a letdown.
“We put so much work and effort into an overtime game, that all that work, it had to pay off today,” Best said after BRYC 95 Elite defeated McLean Fury Green 3-0 at SportsQuest Sunday to win the Under-16 Girls Virginia State Cup championship and advance to the Region I tournament next June in Hershey, Penn.
“I’m proud of the kids. I’m proud of how they handle themselves on and off the field. It’s a class group of kids.”
Best, whose team has lost two overtime State Cup finals at the U-12 and U-13 levels, credited Fury with being a tough, organized and well-coached team that fought throughout the match.
“We just had to play our game,” Best said. “For us, it’s possession, the ‘two Ps': possession and pressure. That’s what we try to do. We keep the ball, and we know we’re going to get chances. Then it comes down to individual play and we had a couple of kids that stepped up and got it done. As a whole, the team was very focused and had a collective effort.”
With a short rest between Saturday night’s semifinal that went to penalties and Sunday afternoon’s final, Best said keeping the game simple was the key, as many of the girls had tired legs after playing the entire semifinal win over PWSI Courage 95 Gold.
“Even though we scored early, we didn’t really feel we were in our rhythm,” he noted. “But then the more we got going, we started keeping the ball. We said from day one, ‘We’re not the greatest athletic team, but we’ve got some pretty good soccer players. And when we play, we can keep the ball.’
“That was really, for us, the key.”
Best said the girls took useful lessons from those past State Cup finals losses.
“We said we’re going to learn from that,” Best said. “And we’ve had some tough losses over the years, but you learn more from losing than you do winning. We remember those losses and we always learned from it. And we’re still not there, but our job is not just about winning, but preparing the kids for the next level, and that’s college soccer.”
He expects that at least two of his players — Kaleigh Riehl and Carlyn Baldwin — will get called into the national pool. He said Kahla Seymour, who scored the first two goals of the finals win, has shown vast improvement over the last few years.
“If you had seen her a few years ago, you didn’t think she was even a soccer player,” Best said of Seymour. “But she’s worked so hard.”
Seymour’s first goal came after she crossed the ball, rebounding off a girl and then touching the ball off the side and put it in. On the second, she touched the ball off to the side and shot it with her left foot.
“We’ve worked so hard over the years,” Seymour said. “It’s really special, because all the hard work we put in, it’s really nice.”
Best said the group’s togetherness has been instrumental in their development.
“I hate to be gender specific, but with girls, it’s a big difference,” he said. “Girls really need that. They need that camaraderie, and that’s how this group plays, win or lose.”
Adrienne Maday, who plays high school soccer at Bishop Ireton in Alexandria, Va., scored BRYC’s third goal. Her Bishop Ireton side didn’t fare as well Sunday night, falling 1-0 to St. John’s in the WCAC championship game.
“It’s our third time coming [to State Cup], and we always lost a close game,” Maday said.
Until Sunday, that is.