Tag Archives: Aria Nagai

WPSL DC-Area End of Season: Not with a Bang

Braddock Road captain and U-23 national teamer Kaleigh Riehl should be one of their few longtime veterans back next season.

Braddock Road captain and U-23 national teamer Kaleigh Riehl should be one of their few longtime veterans back next season. (Photo by Larry J. Clark)

Last Saturday I turned off of Braddock Road onto Sideburn Road and approached the vicinity of the Robinson High School turf field that the Stars Elite play on. I was somewhat nonplussed to note the dearth of vehicles parked by the side of the road, though I quickly realized the game must have been cancelled for some reason. Sure enough, once I parked and came over, I found head coach Larry Best, operations manager Margie Madsen, the referees, and two ballgirls and their parents. But no players: the Legacy-W76 team out of Williamsburg had – according to Madsen – dithered since the previous evening over whether or not to make the trip with just eight or nine players and had even set off, but at Richmond turned around and went back home. Best said they’d have been willing to loan them some players and play for fun, but that offer was not accepted.

So I was deprived of one last opportunity to see the phenomenal young Aria Nagai – “the best 15-year-old in the country” according to Best – as well as longtime Braddock Road mainstays like Natalie Larkin and Rachel Moore, who will almost certainly find better things to do with their summers after graduation than play in the WPSL. Best expects Larkin to move into the real world while he sees Moore playing overseas somewhere. Meanwhile, star player and U-23 national teamer Kaleigh Riehl – a red-shirt sophomore at Penn State – should be around for another couple of years.

On top of that, a few days later I received a couple of messages from Washington Spirit Reserves assistant coach J.P. Sousa indicating that the Reserves would not be participating in the WPSL playoffs because they couldn’t be assured of having enough players for the championship round. That’s what happened last year: the Reserves participated in and won the East Conference, then found they wouldn’t be able to muster enough players, so the Boston Breakers Reserves went in their stead and ended up as WPSL champions, despite Washington beating them, 3-1, in the East final. They thought it was unfair to have that happen again, and I have to agree with them.
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Early July twists and turns in WPSL’s Colonial Division

Braddock Road's Aria Nagai - "the best 15-year-old in the country" according to her coach.

Braddock Road’s Aria Nagai – “the best 15-year-old in the country” according to her coach.

(All game photographs courtesy of Larry J. Clark)

The big match of the weekend looked to be the July 7 match with the Richmond Strikers versus the Washington Spirit Reserves, big enough that I decided to drive down for it – on a Friday afternoon, no less. Both teams were vying for first place in the Colonial Division and the sole playoff spot that went with it. For the Reserves, it was close to a must-win as they’d already dropped points in two matches while the Strikers had only dropped points in one.

While I was driving down, meanwhile, the resurgent Braddock Road Stars Elite were taking on Virginia Beach City. Out of goalkeepers, they drafted defensive midfielder Rachel Moore to play in the net. “Rachel was brilliant in goal,” said head coach Larry Best. “Rachel saved a PK. And nobody knew that she wasn’t a goalie, 5’10”, 5’11”, and she’s a good athlete. And she catches. She played basketball, so she’s got good hands. It was against Virginia Beach, and they didn’t realize until the last five minutes of the game that she wasn’t a real goalie. Because the kids were laughing every time she’d get the ball.”

Braddock Road would pull out a 2-1 win despite giving up the first goal, making it a three-game undefeated streak – starting with the 2-2 draw with Washington – after losing their first five matches of the season.

But on to the Richmond match. Both teams were short-handed this time, Washington again without Douglas, Germino-Watnick, and Schnurr while the Strikers’ U-17 national teamer, Jordan Canniff, was also away.
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