On Sunday, the Big East and Colonial Athletic Association teams switched off against each other. William & Mary faced Georgetown in the first game and shocked the Hoyas, 3-0. Then James Madison took on Seton Hall and prevailed easily, 5-0.
The Fairfield Inn by Marriott James Madison University Invitational – to give it its full name – presented a contrast in the first round of matches. In the opener, William & Mary dispatched Seton Hall easily, 5-1, while in the nightcap Georgetown had a tight, high-scoring battle with hosts James Madison before prevailing, 4-3.
If you had to set up a pecking order among the teams, it would definitely be:
1. Georgetown – last year 6-1-2 and #2 in Big East, 11-5-6 overall, ranked #25 in country.
2. James Madison – 7-2 and #2 in Colonial Athletic Association, 12-8 overall.
3. William & Mary – 5-4 and #4 in CAA, 12-6-1 overall.
4. Seton Hall – 0-6-3 in Big East, 3-10-5 overall.
I don’t want to diss Seton Hall too badly, but one of these teams is not like the others, and it showed in the results.
For the fourth year in a row, the Washington Spirit Reserves (née DC United Women) will play in the four-team W-League Championship Weekend after downing the Braddock Road Stars Elite, 2-0.
The match was pretty much a must-win for the Reserves as a tie or loss would have allowed the Charlotte Lady Eagles to claim the conference championship with a win in their final game. I came in figuring that the worst-case scenario for Washington was a 0-0 draw as I didn’t see the attack-starved home team scoring on a back line anchored by U-23 national teamer Andi Sullivan.
The Washington Spirit Reserves approached the Fourth of July weekend at the top of the Southeastern Conference but with the knowledge that any slip could leave them without control of their outcome. Three games later and with one game to go they’re still in the same situation: in control but only barely.
Thursday, May 28: Braddock Road U-20s 1, Washington Spirit Academy 0.
Saturday, May 30: Washington Spirit Reserves 2, Atlanta Silverbacks Women 2.
Sunday, May 31: Atlanta Silverbacks Women 7, Braddock Road Stars Elite 0.
Olivia Fiegel’s game-winning shot goes in against the Washington Spirit Academy.
Braddock Road U-20s starting off on the right foot
My first amateur game of the season was actually a W-League U-20 (“W-20”) match between the Braddock Road Stars Elite and the Washington Spirit Academy on Field 14 at the Maryland Soccerplex. This was the second match of the season for Braddock Road, who had already downed the Northern Virginia Majestics, 2-0, and the first for Washington. Looking at the rosters, it seemed a bit of a mismatch. Braddock Road’s players were almost entirely the teenagers from their W-League team, while the Spirit’s roster had no W-Leaguers at all. That the result was 1-0 in favor of Braddock Road – on a first half goal by Olivia Fiegel – was no great surprise.
Why follow the W-League? “This is where it all starts,” says Kristen Meier, former professional player for the Seattle Reign and currently captain of the Braddock Road Stars Elite. “You’re watching the World Cup, come out here and see the stepping stones to getting there. We have players who hopefully in four, eight, twelve years will be on that team.”
Given the talent on the local teams, it seems like a good bet. Washington has eight players with youth national team experience, most notably Andi Sullivan, who captained the US team in last year’s U-20 Women’s World Cup. And Braddock Road already has five – including three of Sullivan’s 2014 teammates – with even more up-and-coming young players on the bubble.
So if you come out to see the Stars Elite play the Spirit Reserves (and you have three matches to choose from), you’ve got a pretty good chance of seeing the next Ali Krieger, Lori Lindsey, or Becky Sauerbrunn – all of whom honed their skills on local W-League teams long before getting called up to the national team.
Four of the year’s best players: Spirit Reserves’ Sam Lofton and Ashley Herndon battle Braddock Road’s Allie Wisner while Marisa Park looks on. (photo by Larry J. Clark)
1. Washington Spirit Reserves
2. ASA Chesapeake Charge
3. Braddock Road Stars Elite
4. ACF Torino USA
The Braddock Road ’95 Elite poses with their bronze medals
The Braddock Road 1995 team, competing this year in the U-18 division of the Youth Soccer National Championships, came up short in their goal of repeating their 2012 national championship, losing in the semifinals to Beach FC Ingrassia, 2-0.
Ashley Herndon would tally a goal and three assists in the conference championship. (Photo by Larry J. Clark)
A Braddock Road Stars Elite team missing four of its best players was no match for a Washington Spirit Reserves team nearly at full strength and intent on returning to the W-League Final Four as the Northeastern Conference champion. The Reserves won, 6-0, with Kelsey Pardue and Emily Bruder each scoring a brace.
Ashley Herndon in her fourth year with the Spirit Reserves helped them to their first undefeated season. (Photo by Larry J. Clark)
You couldn’t ask for much more from the local teams this year: with three playoff spots available in the WPSL and the W-League, all three were filled by teams in the area. The ASA Chesapeake Charge some time ago claimed first place and the sole playoff spot in the WPSL’s South Atlantic Division, and the Washington Spirit Reserves did likewise with first place in the W-League’s Northeastern Conference. (Don’t ask me why the WPSL thinks Pennsylvania and Maryland are South Atlantic.)