WAGS Tournament: Close games, tough defense featured on Sunday
The 2015 WAGS Tournament continued on Sunday, as younger divisions concluded group play and continued with their semifinal matches, and showcase ages had another chance to perform well in front of a wide selection of college coaches on hand at FFC Park and the Virginia Soccer Training Center in Fredericksburg, Va.
The U-14 Cup Flight featured a number of ties and close games as the brackets were all well matched. Two teams emerged 3-0-0 after the preliminary games with both FC Virginia and CASL angling for a rematch of their recent 0-0 ECNL outcome.
CASL went through its first three games without allowing a goal and put up eight goals while advancing to the semifinals. Felicity Baker claimed the three clean sheets between the posts while recent 2019 University of North Carolina verbal commit Maggie Pierce led the back line of Anu Kane, Paige Tolentino, Tyler “Frank” Petlick, and Laney Rouse in shutting down the opposing attack. Pierce also led the team in points with two goals and three assists, while Bayleigh Humbert and Emily “Sap” Sapienza added two goals apiece.
The 2 pm U-15 Cup Flight semifinals on Sunday may have been played at the same time, but they could hardly have been more different.
While both games matched similarly ranked opponents from power states of Eastern New York and Pennsylvania, it was was PA-East State Cup silver medalist Lower Merion SC Storm that effectively ended the contest early. LMSC scored three goals early, the second a spectacular 20 yard one-time rocket off a half clearance.
FC Westchester finished the first half strong, and was dangerous several times, and was unlucky not to get one or two back before halftime. Perhaps sensing the danger however, LMSC started the second half the same as the first, scoring two goals in the opening 15 minutes, a lead even the best teams in the country would have been unlikely to overcome against the talented outfit. FC Westchester rallied again however, holding strong on defense, and finally earning a reward for their effort notching a consolation goal in the final stages.
The other semifinal featured the two No. 1 ranked teams in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) region with FC Virginia’s mostly-ECNL roster facing off against growing Maryland power Premier Strikers. FCV started the game slowly, and after allowing a ball to bounce in the box, paid the price in the 10th minute. Premier nearly put another one away when they got a break-away less than a minute later, only to see the final shot skim off the outside of the post.
It took nearly the reset of the game for things to click, but when they did, FCV only needed three out of the last five minutes to win the game. They drew level off a 16-yard shot after playing some ping-pong in the box. The shot went off the underside of the bar and sparked celebration throughout for the closer to home team. Then sparked by the energy and with overtime looming, Lauren Sproat notched the winner.
Sunday’s final would seem to favor FCV given the two sides met in group play, with FCV winning 5-1 over Lower Merion. But while FCV has been playing together regularly, Lower Merion is only a tournament team in the fall due to high school play, so may have gotten off to a slow start on Saturday. If both teams start the final the same way they each opened Sunday’s semis, it’s possible Lower Merion could have their revenge.
Maryland’s OPSA Magic and Pennsylvania East State Cup champion PA Strikers will face off Monday for bragging rights in Bracket 1 of the U-16 Showcase Division, where the teams are tied for the lead with four points each. Strikers took down Beach FC 99 Red 2-1 on Sunday, while Magic played NJ Stallions Stampede to a 2-2 draw.
United FA 00 Premier continued its undefeated run through Bracket 2, outlasting FC Virginia ECNL 3-2. Erin Houlihan provided speed and explosiveness at the forward position for United, causing problems for the back line of the Virginia State Cup champions. Jenna Vollrath buried a free kick with a powerful shot tucked just under the crossbar from the top of the box after Houlihan was tripped up and earned a foul call, providing one of the highlight goals of the day.
After a hard-fought win over East Islip SC on Saturday, Arundel (ASA) Premier 99 defeated Georgia’s Storm SA 99 Black 2-1 on Sunday to remain atop Bracket 3. ASA faces second place Piedmont Triad FC 99 Lady Black on Monday afternoon. Piedmont, the reigning North Carolina State Cup champion, played East Islip SC to a 2-2 draw on Sunday. East Islip’s Ashley Kniff scored a highlight reel goal in the second half, hitting a shot off the right post and in from the left side of the box.
In the U-17 Showcase Division, reigning Florida State Cup champion Tampa Bay United Premier 98 outlasted Annandale United FC 1-0 in a physical battle, TBU’s second win in as many days. TBU faces a dynamic FC Virginia ECNL squad on Monday, in a meeting of the No. 1 and No. 2 sides in Bracket 1 through two days of play.
Vincent United F.C. Crush earned a clean sheet against Vienna Youth Soccer Thunder Black on Sunday morning, winning the match 1-0 and moving into second place in Bracket 2. Sophia Kopko and Courtney Stevens played well at center back for Vincent United, consistently anticipating and breaking down Vienna’s runs. United trails Pipeline SC Black by one point entering Monday, as Pipeline tied North Atlanta Soccer Association 17 Elite 3-3 in their second match of the weekend.
Fredericksburg FC 98 Gold met fellow Club Champions League (CCL) side and Virginia State Cup champion Loudoun 98 Red in Bracket 3 play on Sunday, with FFC picking up a 1-0 victory to remain unbeaten. FFC takes on another reigning state champion in Delaware Rush on Monday morning at their home venue.
Florida Elite 97/98 and PWSI Courage 97 Red will meet on Monday morning in a match-up of the top squads in Bracket 2 of the U-19 Showcase I Division, after both teams earned shutout victories on Sunday. While Courage blanked Super Nova FC 1-0, and still haven’t conceded a goal in the tournament, Florida Elite defeated California Rush 2-0 with a stifling defensive effort. Marissa Reinker had a strong showing up top for Elite, getting behind the defense and sealing the match with a second half strike.
Elite coach Mike Johnson was pleased with his team’s defensive mindset, which was apparent from the back line, through the midfield and up top, where every player made it a personal responsibility to pressure the ball.
“Our kids are very committed to defending, they hate to give up goals,” Johnson said. “On the defensive side we always try to be prepared organizationally and as individuals. We try to get pressure higher up the field to take some pressure off our back line. Our team defends very well as a unit, and all of them have a responsibility, so we’re able to limit the other team’s opportunities.”
Elsewhere in the top U-19 flight, Pennsylvania East State Cup semifinalists FC Europa Sol earned its second straight one-goal victory, edging Florida side Braden River SC 97 Rage Premier 2-1. Europa clinched first place in the bracket, and will seek its third win of the tournament on Monday.