BRYC ’95 Elite powers through U-16 girls bracket at Region I Championships, eyes natl. glory
By Roger Gonzalez
Consistently ranked among the top Under-16 girls teams in the nation, Virginia’s Braddock Road Youth Club ’95 Elite possesses quite the balance of attack and defense.
A powerful frontline led by Kahla Seymour makes its mark with hard running and crucial goals. A quick, controlling midfield dictates the pace for coach Larry Best‘s squad, while Kaleigh Riehl anchors a stingy, athletic back line.
This formula has earned BRYC ’95 Elite multiple multiple honors in the Virginia State Cup and Washington Area Girls Soccer League over the years, and a first-place spot in the South division of the U.S. Youth Soccer Region I Premier League this past spring. And it was evident again during the squad’s run to the Region I championship earlier this month, culminating with a 2-0 win over New Jersey’s Match Fit Chelsea Beat in Lancaster, Pa.
“Well, obviously we’ve had a good run the entire year, going back to State Cup and Region I Premier League,” said Best. “We felt pretty good, pretty confident. The competition was stiff. We got through our group, but not easily.”
BRYC Elite finished the group stage 3-0, taking down PDA Ginga (N.J.) 1-0, MPS Renegades (Mass.) 3-0 and Yankee United Strikers (Conn.) 3-2.
“Our first game against PDA, we controlled the game, but they are still dangerous,” Best said. “It could have been a couple more goals. We played well in all three group games. In the third game, we were already through. We rested a couple kids and gave up two goals in the first eight minutes. We put our starters back in for the last 15 minutes and scored three goals.”
In the semifinals, a 3-0 thrashing of New York side Alleycat Lynx set up one of the top showdowns in the tournament.
The other finalist, Match Fit Chelsea Beat, entered the match undefeated, just like BRYC. The difference? The Jersey squad had won 5-0, 4-0, 2-0 and 6-1 entering the contest for a whopping plus-16 on overall goal differential, compared to their Virginia rivals’ plus-eight differential.
“They are dangerous,” Best said of PDA Ginga. “First of all, they have a lot of speed. They play a little bit more direct. You can’t let them get in behind you.
“We defended well. Off set pieces and throw-ins, they are dangerous. We had to really keep the ball — if we keep the ball, we are pretty tough to beat. It was our day.”
Second-half goals by Seymour and Katherine Bukovsky led the way as BRYC ’95 Elite put together their most complete match of the tournament.
“It was a team that we had never beaten before,” their coach noted. “Our performance was good. We went into halftime at 0-0. The grass field was really thick and long. It was uphill-downhill. We were defending the downhill side to begin with. We were saying, ‘If we can go in 0-0 at halftime, we feel pretty good’. Sure enough, we did. We scored in the 62nd minute and 72nd minute.
“There were a couple stretches where we let them back in to the game, but overall, I think it was a complete game. They can take the game over, but we didn’t allow that. We weathered the storm.”
Seymour led the way with five goals, while Riehl contributed three.
“They were big,” Best said of Riehl’s goals. “They were all three off set pieces. It’s kind of ironic, we went over a lot of that stuff [before the tournament]. For the first time, we kind of incorporated Kaleigh, who is our center back. She scored off two corners and one off a direct free kick.
“Kahla was great. I don’t think Kahla really understands how much of an impact she can have on a game. That little bit of growth — she is young, she is one of our youngest girls on the team. She is just now figuring out she can take games over. More and more she is learning that, and obviously it’s a good thing for us.”
This performance only increases expectations for nationals, taking place in Rock Hill, S.C. later this month. After conquering all at the Region I level, BRYC Elite’s biggest goal is next.
“We will be [ready] down at South Carolina,” Best said. “The first game is on the 25th [of July], then 26th, 27th. I feel good about it. We have played three of the teams.
“We feel pretty good — we are right there.”