Virginia State Cup: VYS Strikers U-17s’ Cinderella story reaches its end
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — All good things must come to an end, and so it was for Vienna Youth Soccer’s Strikers Under-17 team as they went out of the Virginia State Cup at the semifinal stage to McLean 97 Girls Green by a 3-0 scoreline at the VYSA Virginia Soccer Training Center on Saturday.
The No. 22 seed in the competition — albeit with the seeds in State Cup randomly allocated below the top eight, depending on when they are drawn — the Strikers had enjoyed a great run in the competition with a 3-0 victory over ASC Wolves, then a surprise 2-1 victory over No. 6 Loudoun Soccer and yet another surprise 2-1 win over No. 3 SYC Pride United in the quarterfinals.
Not bad for a team that nearly broke up just a few months ago.
They were undone in the final four by McLean, who scored all three of their goals inside the opening 30 minutes thanks to a brace from Maddie Dale and another from Susie Kim. In spite of the defeat, and despite a berth in the final having been so tantalisingly close, Vienna can reflect on a strong showing in the state tournament.
“It was unexpected,” head coach Gerardo Ramirez told SoccerWire.com after the game. “I just told the girls right now that nobody expected us to move as far as we did, especially coming from a team that was about to fold in the summer.
“We were about to fold and we kept it together and we added some players and we had a very nice run. You could tell how competitive these girls are, because they know it was a great run but still at the end of the game they’re not happy, they’re not satisfied.”
It was a difficult game for Vienna against a rampant McLean side, with the underdogs starting brightly but failing to sustain their pressure. The majority of the goals they conceded were from defensive errors in the windy and cold conditions, and Ramirez acknowledged that mistakes are costly when playing a talented opponent such as McLean.
“We’ve had this type of game before, where we give up too much in a half,” he said. “At this stage of the game at a tournament, you make mistakes, the other team’s going to make you pay for it. That’s what happened.
“We started off really well, and it looked very good for us in the beginning, but one goal, two goals, puts any team at any level down and it’s very tough to come back against a strong team like McLean.”
In spite of that, Ramirez and his players were determined to keep pushing forward and look positive in attack after the halftime break, even with a three-goal deficit staring them in the face. Having shown such togetherness up until this point, Vienna’s head coach believed that would be key in helping them regain a foothold in the game.
“At halftime, the main message was to continue to support each other, let’s be positive and encourage each one out on the field,” he said. “I thought our communication was not there, we were lacking communication, and that to me was a sign that we just needed to stay together and stick together and support each other.”
Unfortunately, it was not to be, as McLean were happy to soak up any pressure from their opponents and take the 3-0 win to move into the final. However, Vienna can look back with pride on a strong cup run that will be remembered for a long time to come.
“I’m extremely proud of the girls, the club, the community was following them,” Ramirez said. “It was something unexpected. These girls have been playing, and I’ve been trying to make them play the right way, not always getting the right results. That’s why the whole seeding system is not very accurate, because we had a low seed but out there you saw a bunch of girls playing good soccer.”