After competing in national-level leagues since 2011, the Washington Spirit Reserves stepped down this year to the Virginia-Maryland regional Club Champions League’s Pro-23 conference and made short work of their competition, going 7-0-0 while scoring 26 goals and allowing none. It’s the second league championship for head coach KJ Spisak and assistant coach JP Sousa in their fifth season managing the team together, after winning the final W-League championship in 2015. (Sousa has been a coach with the team since 2013, as long as they’ve been the Spirit Reserves, and had a brief stint as head coach in 2013 when he had to take over when Mark Parsons was tapped to manage the pro team.)
The season climaxed in the July 14 championship final against the Richmond Strikers, which the Reserves won, 2-0, with both goals by Georgetown rising senior Paula Germino-Watnick. Said Sousa, “We controlled the entire game. It was 100 degrees here. Girls did well to manage everything. Richmond was the best team we played all summer. They had a couple chances but Shelby [Money] made two tremendous saves for us when it was 1-0. PGW was the best player on the field (again).”
It’s a far cry from when the Reserves and their predecessors, the DC United Women, competed in the W-League (from 2011 to 2015) and then the Women’s Premier Soccer League for three seasons after that. Fans could count on formidable opponents, from the New Jersey Wildcats to the Virginia Beach Piranhas to the Charlotte Lady Eagles – captained, incidentally, by Amanda Naeher, twin sister to World Cup champion goalkeeper Alyssa.
Still, the team that yielded current NWSL players like Andi Sullivan, Midge Purce, Carson Pickett, Caroline Casey, Meghan Cox, Imani Dorsey, Meggie Dougherty Howard, DiDi Haracic, and Kayla McCoy remains worth watching.
This year the team had a solid group of seniors in Ole Miss’s Julia Phillips, North Carolina’s Bridgette Andrzejewski, Penn State’s Kaleigh Riehl, and especially the Georgetown triumvirate of Meaghan Nally, Carson Nizialek, and Paula Germino-Watnick, all of whom had already played for the team at least one season if not longer. My AllWhiteKit colleague Chris Henderson in his most recent (August 2018) projection of the 2020 draft has Riehl being picked 4th and Andrzejewski 20th, so look for them on an NWSL roster next year. Additionally, Nally, Riehl, and Germino-Watnick were called into U-23 national team camp earlier this year.
At the other extreme, young newcomers like Jasmine Hamid, Mary-Kaitlyn Barnes, and Brenda Aleman – all still in high school or just graduated – showed promise for the future.