Va. State Cup: Northern dominance continues as PWSI, Arlington lead trophy haul

Prince William Soccer, Inc. experienced the ultimate win in Virginia this week.

Twice.

The PWSI Courage Red 97 and Red 98 girls squads conquered the Commonwealth with triumphs in the Virginia State Cup semifinals on Saturday, then victories in Sunday’s cup finals.

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Both No. 1 seeds, they had targets on their backs in very competitive brackets, but they did enough to win, in the process leading another dominant final-four display by Northern Virginia clubs as seven of the weekend’s eight trophies went home to the Washington, D.C. suburbs.

The Arlington Soccer Association matched PWSI’s haul, as their Impact Red and Strikers Red squads secured the U-16 and U-17 Boys titles, while Loudoun Soccer, VSA and the Annandale Boys and Girls Club each claim one State Cup winner. Richmond Kickers Elite rounded out the field with their victory in the U-18 Girls division.

PWSI’s Courage Red 98 girls (Under-15) won 1-0 over VYS Thunder Black in the semifinals. In the other semifinal, Braddock RoadYC 98 Elite edged Richmond Kickers Elite 2-0.

PWSI won 2-1 in the winner-take-all championship game, a rematch of last year’s U-14 State Cup final, a taut battle which eventually went Courage Red 98 via penalty-kick shootout.

“It’s a big win against a big rival,” said Courage Red 98 coach Steve Clegg, who praised his team’s togetherness and preparation ahead of the final.

But it isn’t surprising. Clegg coached the team at the U-9, U-10 and U-11 levels before a brief hiatus. The girls have known each other for years, know each others’ styles on the pitch and flourished as a result.

That’s proved by two state titles in as many seasons. The team is ranked No. 1 in the state, and Sunday just validated it.

“These girls have been battling for years,” Clegg told SoccerWire.com.

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For PWSI’s Courage Red 97 girls, this fall’s State Cup run was a tough, emotional ride. The team decided to replace its head coach in mid-September, bringing Justin Joswick aboard. He had never been a head coach of a girls team, but he did guide his Courage Red 99 boys to a state title last year.

This weekend he proved that he can get the job done on either side of the gender divide. Joswick’s team raced past Beach FC 97G Red 3-0 in the semifinals with goals from Cici Fox, Priscilla Ayala and Ayan Adu.

“They started off a little slowly in the beginning, but they gathered momentum and changed the game in the second half,” said Joswick (pictured at right) of his team, who led 1-0 at the half.

“I really saw the girls starting to take control of possession,” he added. “They started making decisions, and they continued to go after, and get, more goals while remaining strong in defense.”

In the final against Richmond Kickers Elite, it was 0-0 at the end of regulation and extra time, so penalty kicks were required to determine the next U-16 Girls state champ.

Joswick’s squad would win 4-2 in the shootout as goalkeeper Hannah McShea stopped the first two Kickers’ spot kicks.

“I am really just happy with the girls that they could win the second [State Cup for PWSI this season],” Joswick said. “They really bounced back and stuck together. It was awesome for them to get this win.

“It was really nerve-racking,” he recalled. “I really wanted the girls to get the victory. They weren’t on their best that day, but they showed their grit and determination. I was really proud of them.”

From being named the new coach barely five weeks ago to hoisting the big-time trophy, it’s been a crazy ride.

“It was a transition that was made possible because of the girls’ relationship together,” Joswick said. “They have a good relationship with one another. They were able to find a way through it.”

Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more Va. State Cup finals weekend coverage on SoccerWire.com later this week.

[ +Check out full Va. State Cup finals results here ]