VSA Heat Blue complete epic year with all-conquering run to U-17 girls national title
It could be described as utter domination.
Northern Virginia Under-17 girls powerhouse VSA Heat Blue proved that they were the top squad in the Northeast United States at the U.S. Youth Soccer Region I Championships in early July, racing to the title with an undefeated record.
With a spot at nationals assured, coach Steve Smith’s ladies hoped to build on that performance. They did that and more.
In a six-team group at the 2012 national championships in Rock Hill, S.C. last week, VSA Heat went 3-0 in the group stage and did not surrender a single goal.
"It was amazing. I think our first game was probably the toughest game," forward Ashley Herndon told The Soccer Wire this week. "We came out ready to play. Our defense played amazing."
The squad won the group and secured a spot in the final against Legends FC 94 (Ca.), who they had not played in the group stage.
What happened next could hardly be put it into words, shocking those on both sides of the championship decider..
Heat Blue found themselves up 3-0 after just 11 minutes, as an own goal and a double from Herndon set the tone in startling fashion.
"The own goal definitely gave us a confidence boost," Herndon said. "The next two goals, I think everyone just said, 'don't get too cocky. Don't blow this game, we've got the lead.'"
They rolled to a 4-0 lead at the halftime break after Daniela Neves found the net. In the second half Vanessa Kovar and Lindsay Egbers each added one of their own to complete a 6-0 thrashing and earn the national title.
"It had to be the best feeling in the world to us," said Neves, a West Virginia commit. "We had girls that cried because they were so happy. All our hard work these past years has finally paid off. We're all still posting pictures and tweeting about how we still can't believe it was real. It meant everything to us.
"The minute we all started warming up [for the final], I knew this was going to be our game. Everyone was so focused and determined,” she added. “We all came together, said our prayer like we always did, and we said we leave it all on the field and we want this more than anyone. We stayed positive with one another and didn't give up. We kept fighting for one another. We kept possession of the ball until we could find the open seams. We all stayed relaxed and just played how the Heat plays. When we play like that, no one can stop us."
On the biggest of stages, there was no letdown from a team that has showed their quality all year long.
"I was not expecting that," said Herndon, a James Madison commit, of the monstrous scoreline in the final. "We thought it was going to be a nail-biter to the end. It's amazing. It's great to say you are national champs."
Region title? Check. National title? Check. But don't be mistaken, there aren't done yet.
"We've accomplished one of the biggest things, but now it's time we defend our title," said Neves of U-18 play next season. "We want to be able to hold that title ‘til we all go our separate ways in college. For me, I like to call our team the dream team, because VSA Heat is everything I've ever wanted in a team."
An amazing summer full of top trophies proves that there is no better U-17 girls team in the nation. But Neves, who is currently celebrating the title with family in Brazil, will tell you who deserves plenty of the credit during this sensational journey to the top of youth soccer.
"Without our coaches and family, we wouldn't be where we are because of all the effort and time they've put into us," she said. "They were our little cheer section. [They] kept us going and fighting, too."
Fighting all year long, delivering one knockout punch after another, VSA Heat has more than earned the title of nation's best.