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Tournaments Mar 17, 2012

Herndon Firecats U-17s fall just short in clash of titans with Bethesda Freedom

By Roger Gonzalez

Two of the top Under-17 girls teams in the country — who also happen to be familiar crosstown rivals — met in a U-17 Championship division slugfest on day one of the Jefferson Cup’s Girls Weekend on Friday afternoon at the West Creek Fields in Henrico, Va.

Fans and college scouts in attendance were treated to a brilliant display as the No. 10-ranked team in the nation, Herndon Youth Soccer Firecats (Va.), played a grueling match against another Washington, D.C. area powerhouse, national No. 3-ranked Bethesda SC Freedom 94 ECNL (Md.), with the Virginians falling 3-2 despite a strong second-half rally.

“I think the girls played really well,” Herndon coach Nadir Moumen told The Soccer Wire afterwards, despite the loss. “You are disappointed to ever give up goals, but I was proud of their performance.

“I thought they moved the ball pretty well. We created some good opportunities. Both teams are top-notch teams.”

Bethesda is a familiar opponents for Moumen’s ladies.

“We’ve played them 100 times now over the years,” he said. “They are probably one of the most fun teams to watch and play against. [They are] extremely talented individuals. They play well together.”

The respect runs both ways in this rivalry, which dates back well into the respective players’ childhoods.

“You always know both teams are going to keep the ball on the floor and play, and knock it, and build, and recognize how to break the pressure so we can find our forwards,” noted Bethesda coach Jonathan Morgan, who was also recently tabbed to take over as head coach at the University of Maryland women’s program.

“It’s probably going to be a little bit slower, but it’s going to be more a little more thoughtful. I think whenever we match up, it’s a good soccer game.”

Now, with the goal obviously being to showcase his players, the coach said he was pleased with the individual performances. While college coaches may be enticed by the talent, they can’t get their hopes up, as the majority of the team has already committed.

Danielle Fitzgerald (University of Kentucky), Rachel Ivey (James Madison), Madison Smith (UMass) and Jamie Kator (Vanderbilt University) are several of those committed to date, with several other schools, including Arizona, Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth, showing interest in the Firecats’ uncommitted players.

Though there are still several who haven’t made a college choice, the coach didn’t get a chance to talk to any coaches.

“I didn’t talk to any,” Moumen said. “I didn’t hang around the field too long. Usually most of them all contact on Monday and Tuesday.”

With today’s game over, some of the players attended the James Madison vs. University of Richmond college game at Striker Park, before getting some rest for an 8 a.m. match on Saturday against Ponte Verde SC 94/95 Storm Girls of Florida.

As always, the team is having a blast at the Jeff Cup.

“We have been down here now since, I believe, U-12 or U-13,” their coach said. “I love it. It’s a great facility. You always get great competition. We play some of the top teams in the country. I think it’s fantastic tournament.”