June 25: Washington Spirit Reserves 8, Virginia Beach City FC 0
The draw with Braddock Road evidently didn’t faze the Reserves at all, and they took out any frustrations on Virginia Beach, Kristin Schnurr scoring a hat trick to lead them to an 8-0 romp.
Schnurr started off the scoring in the 12th minute after Gloria Douglas made a run down the left sideline and sent a great cross into the box. Schnurr got a foot on it and redirected it into the net.
In the 24th minute, Paula Germino-Watnick fired a shot in from outside the box. Meghan Nally finished the first half scoring in stoppage time with a header off a cross from the right.
The next goal came off a corner kick in the 62nd minute. The ball bounced around in the box until Alexis Tye headed it in off a feed from Sadie Stark.
Three minutes later, it was Stark’s turn to score as Emma Kershner sent in a cross from the left side that she put away.
Schnurr got her second goal in the 84th minute off another feed from the left, sending the ball in from the middle of the box.
Two minutes later, Cammie Murtha made a run down the right flank, beat her defender, and sent in a cross that Schnurr sent in to complete her hat trick.
Not surprisingly, assistant coach JP Sousa was happy with the result. “We started off a little slow, but once we got into a groove, scored a couple of goals, then they just kind of opened up. We got the third one right before halftime, and then we scored early in the second half. And then it just kind of went from there. Everybody got to play, got some good, creative stuff going on. We were happy with it. We needed to get a game where we scored a bunch of goals, just to feel good.”
(Thanks to Jennifer Gordon for the match report.)
June 28: Washington Spirit Reserves 3, Fredericksburg FC 0
Unlike the last match, Washington made a slow start to this one, not getting on the scoreboard at all in the first half due in part to their own sluggishness and lack of accuracy, and part to an impressive performance by Fredericksburg goalkeeper Eliana Charalambous, who most notably made a sensational save in the 24th minute to parry a point-blank shot that looked to be going inside the right post off a corner kick from the other side. “Their goalkeeper made one ridiculous save to keep it out,” said Sousa. “Credit to her, that was good. But we should have snuck a couple in, and we didn’t.”
The first tally came in the 52nd minute as Douglas brought the ball down the left-hand side to the end line and sent a cross into the box. It went all the way through and out the other side to Germino-Watnick, who sent it back in to Murtha, who sent the ball in from about 15 yards out.
The second goal came about a minute later. Off the kickoff, Fredericksburg took the ball back into their own territory and turned it over. Murtha got it deep on the left and centered it for Germino-Watnick, who put it away.
The final goal came in the 75th minute when Murtha made a run down the right-hand side and crossed into Lana Spitler, who made some nifty moves in the goalmouth while surrounded by defenders and managed to find enough of an opening to send the ball in.
“Second half, we got a couple,” said Sousa, “We had that bang-bang, two goals in two minutes. So that was good. We got a third goal. Lana scored that. We probably could have scored a couple more before the whistle blew, but we’ll take three. Three goals, three points, we move on.”
Forward Murtha is the youngest player on the team this year. She just graduated from Walter Johnson High School and is heading to Wisconsin in the fall. “I just kind of grew up here with the Spirit,” she said, “So I was looking for a team to play with, and my [future] teammate Alexis Tye is playing, so might as well.” She’s working on “trying to get my speed of play up so I can get ready for the college level.”
I asked her about the goals scored since she had a role in all of them. “We were just getting a lot of crosses out today. I missed a bunch of them in the beginning. I missed that big one [gestures at the goal they were attacking in the first half], so I was kind of hoping I could finish one.
“We definitely got end line pretty well today. We were looking to be a little more creative, but it didn’t really happen. But we were really successful beating people endline.”
Murtha modestly didn’t mention that she was Maryland’s Gatorade Girl’s Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season, an honor previously earned by the likes of Joanna Lohman and Christine Nairn.
Sousa had nothing but good things to say about her. “Really good player. She’s quick. She’s feisty. She doesn’t back down from anybody, so that’s pretty cool. It’s nice to have players like that. She’s been in youth national team camps. She was in California in May with the U-19s. And we were able to get her to come out here because she’s from Maryland. When she came back, we got in touch with her, KJ invited her to come out, and she said, ‘Yeah, I want to be here.'”
At the other end of the field, defender Julie Phillips has been at the heart of the stingy Reserve defense since last season. A rising sophomore at Ole Miss (after transferring from Florida State), she joined the team after “Our coach contacted [head coach] KJ [Spisak], so we were up here playing. And I really liked the team and the style of play, so I came back.”
Asked what she was working on, she said, “Just play at a high level with great players and get better for next season.”
About the game, she said, “Could have put our chances away earlier and won it quicker, but we got it done. We played better as the game went on. We’re building up for Sunday against Richmond, the number one team right now.”
The Reserves have four games left, starting with their last home game against the Strikers Sunday morning at 10 (!). Then they go on the road to play Richmond, Virginia Beach City FC, and a yet-to-be-scheduled makeup game against Williamsburg’s Legacy-W76.
Sousa and the coaching staff have no information yet on the WPSL playoffs except that the conference championship will be the weekend of July 22, and the national championship the weekend of July 29. The assumption is that like last year the top team of each of the four East Conference divisions will face off in a “final four” style tournament hosted by one of them. The host division is supposed to rotate from year to year, but it’s yet to be stated which division’s turn it is.