Division champions decided on Columbus Day at WAGS Tournament
The 2015 WAGS Tournament concluded on Monday at field locations throughout Northern Virginia, as showcase divisions wrapped up group play and younger divisions determined their champions with some highly competitive title matches across the age groups.
Monday brought out more than just a return to summer-like weather, it brought more college programs and more head coaches than had been seen on any one day over the weekend. Several of the top flight U-16 and U-17 games had a ‘who’s who’ list of local legends and younger coaches from some of the region’s top Division I programs, while many U-19 games were attended by programs from various levels of collegiate soccer looking to fill remaining 2016 roster spots.
Playing on their home field, FC Virginia edged out fellow Northern Virginia side BRYC 01 Elite in the U-14 Cup Flight final. FCV capped off a weekend in which it allowed just one goal over the course of five games, finishing with an unblemished 5-0-0 record. Bracket 2 winner BRYC used dominant defense as well to reach the final, conceding just two goals in five matches.
NJ Wildcats emerged as champions of the U-14 A Flight, beating Pennsylvania side Lehigh Valley United 01 in penalty kicks after the teams ended regulation tied 1-1. Both goals scored in regulation came on penalties as well, as NJ Wildcats’ Crystal Cutler and LVU’s Bailey Groff converted PKs to put their teams on the board. LVU’s potent offense, which netted eight goals during group play, was held in check most of the match by goalkeeper Carley Polchak and a tough Wildcats back line.
FC Virginia ECNL hit full stride on Monday in the U-15 Cup Flight final, earning a clean sheet and controlling the tempo of the match in a 3-0 defeat of Lower Merion SC Storm.
Payton Moore, Sophie Tran, Sydney Ash and Megan Ogawa led the FCV defensive effort, while goalkeeper Kaitlyn Emmons showed excellent anticipation and sure hands when called upon to make saves.
After taking a 1-0 lead into halftime, the FCV attack continued to roll in the second half, extending its lead to 2-0 on a tap-in goal by Zoe Tran, who beat LVU’s goalkeeper to a rebound after a shot deflected off the crossbar bounced back into the box. FCV put the game out of reach later in the half, as a sprinting Lindsay Fary drew the LVU keeper out toward the middle of the box, then dished left to a wide open Lauren Sproat who promptly buried the shot in stride.
Arlington Comets Red 00 made light work of the WAGS U-15 A flight, scoring 11 goals and allowing just one in their first four matches of the weekend before capping it with a 4-0 defeat of Harleysville FC Ready ’00 (Pa.) in the division final on Monday afternoon.
Even more impressive than their 5-0 record for the weekend was Comets Red’s impressive commitment to passing, possession and movement off the ball – and the fact that they achieved it all with a squad of just 13 players, after injuries wreaked havoc on coach Mo Tayari‘s side in recent weeks.
“You want them to play, you want them to connect, you want them to enjoy the game. I just don’t like the long-ball style. It doesn’t show anything for college coaches,” said Tayari after his side’s championship win. “As you can see, the roster is short, I had only two subs all tournament. It was tough – but see, if we were playing long ball we won’t keep up.”
Tayari and the rest of the Northern Virginia club’s coaching staff have earned plaudits for the skill and quality of their boys teams in state and regional competitions. Now Comets Red are eager to build their own tradition of success, and a WAGS Tournament trophy is an important step on a road which continues in Virginia State Cup and Club Champions League.
“What happened with the girls last year, we lost to Bethesda in the final – we totally dominated. And then we lost in State Cup in overtime after missing a PK,” said Tayari. “I told the girls, ‘this is the third final for you, make it count.’ And they did. I’m happy for them. This is a warm-up for next week’s State Cup game.”
In the U-15 C flight, Western New York Flash’s brand-new academy system made a great first impression on the WAGS Tournament as the Flash 00/01 side finished a solid weekend with a hard-fought 1-0 championship final win over Ft. Lauderdale Select FC 00/01 Blue at Evergreen Sportsplex.
The Florida side were athletic and competitive, cheered on by a large traveling contingent, but WNY Flash’s attacking movement broke them down shortly after halftime with a well-played through ball and finish.
“I was happy we made it to the finals and were able to stick it out to the end and give them a battle,” said Ft. Lauderdale coach Jaime Gruber of the Flash. “Their vision of the field and their penetrating runs, it’s something you see from higher levels, older ages, so that’s what I want [Select Blue] to see, so they know, ‘OK, we may be winning stuff in our area but there’s people out there that we strive to be.’”
The Flash are known for their professional team, which competes in the NWSL, but are now ready to carve out a reputation at the youth level as well after acquiring the girls side of the Buffalo Soccer Academy earlier this year. Coach Henrik Ambarchian‘s team are now focused on grabbing the attention of tournament organizers in order to earn placement in higher-level divisions, and a 15-5 goal differential over their five WAGS Tournament matches this weekend will surely help in that regard.
“What we’re doing now is trying to introduce our teams to tournaments, so the college coaches can see what the plan is, what Western New York Flash is trying to do. And really, we need to go to these tournaments and play these games and do well, so we can get noticed,” said Ambarchian. “It’s going to be tough to get into the higher brackets, but we’re happy with whatever we get right now.
“We’re looking ahead and hoping that people can see and get to know us, so regionally we can attract the talent.”
FC Pennsylvania Strikers finished the weekend atop Bracket 1 of the U-16 Showcase Division, compiling a 2-1-0 record to earn seven points, three more than any other team in the group. The reigning State Cup and Region 1 champions scored five goals and allowed just two in three matches, closing out the tournament with a 2-0 victory over Maryland’s OPSA Magic on Monday morning.
Georgia’s United FA Premier capped an unblemished 4-0-0 run at the WAGS Tournament on Monday morning, defeating FC Europa from Pennsylvania 3-1 to complete a sweep of Bracket 2. United FA scored all three of its goals in the first half, then spent most of the second defending against a determined and dangerous Europa attack.
Europa came close to finding the net several times in the second half, earning a number of corners in the process, mostly through flank play. Several of those corners resulted in 21 players in the box as United defended in numbers with all of Europa’s field players risking everything to get on the end of any opportunity. It wasn’t until the final 10 minutes that United started counter punching, missing wide on a few occasions before spending the final minutes smartly dribbling for the offensive corners.
United FA not only swept its bracket, but also earned a 2-0 win over State Cup champion Delaware Rush in a bonus game on Saturday morning.
Another Georgia side, Storm SA Black earned their first shutout and win of the tournament on Monday, rebounding from an unlucky sending off of their only goalkeeper on Saturday and a tight 2-1 loss to Maryland side Arundel Premier. Sydney Martinez was in net for another PK against her teams, but used her athleticism to make the goal seem much smaller and thanked her crossbar to earn a 2-0 shutout over Long Island club East Islip SC.
Storm placed third in Bracket 3 behind Arundel Premier and Piedmont Triad FC 99 Lady Black, which finished first with a 2-1-0 record. Piedmont clinched a first place finish on Monday, winning a hard fought battle 2-1 against Arundel Premier.
FC Virginia ECNL capped off the tournament with an impressive 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay United Premier 98, the reigning Florida State Cup champion side. TBU entered the match coming off back-to-back wins over Davis Legacy and Annandale United, but was held in check by a resilient FCV team which took the top spot in Bracket 1 by one point with the win.
Perhaps the most energetic of six top flight showcase games in the 11:10 a.m. timeslot ended as a 2-2 tie between the highly-ranked Northern California side Davis Legacy and local Virginia power and Region I finalist Annandale FC in U-17 Bracket 1 competition. Davis’ Sidra Bugsch was a commanding force more easily slowed than contained in the midfield. Her box-to-box and side-to-side range was equally matched by Annandale’s Cayla Davis, with both sides clearly hungry to impress the significant Division I college coach turnout.
Current Georgia State Cup champs, National League members, and Region III semifinalists North Atlanta Elite scored nine goals on the weekend, but only notched their first win in U-17 action on Sunday – albeit in emphatic fashion, putting four past PA East State Cup finalists Vincent United and earning their first shutout. NASA finished at the top of Bracket 2 with five points, edging out Vienna Youth Soccer and Pipeline SC.
Fredericksburg FC 98 Gold defeated Delaware Rush 2-1 on Monday morning, closing out a perfect weekend at their home facility. FFC outscored opponents 11-2 for the tournament, also beating Council Rock United 8-1 and Virginia State Cup champion Loudoun 98 Red 1-0.
FC Europa Sol took Bracket 1 in dominating fashion, running the table against BRYC 97/98 Elite, Braden River SC 97 and Maryland United FC 97 Red. Europa capped off the weekend with a 5-0 win over Maryland United on Monday after one-goal victories over BRYC and Braden River.
PWSI Courage 97 Red compiled an unblemished 3-0-0 mark in Bracket 2, scoring nine goals and not allowing a single one. Courage put an exclamation mark on its successful event, beating Florida Elite 97/98 in a 5-0 rout on Monday morning.