Even if he wanted to, FASA Impact U-15 girls coach Pete Cinalli would have a hard time singling out any one player for the team’s success.
A combined 14 players scored goals during its recently concluded Super-Y League regular season, with nine of them scoring at least twice in FASA’s eight game schedule. The team’s two top goal scorers–Taylor Hudgins and Shannon Wratchford–have four goals apiece, with Wratchford adding another five assists, as the team led the South Atlantic Division in goals with 31, and had a +22 goal differential, which also led the division. FASA’s girls are currently playing as U-16s this fall.
It’s that unselfish play that has propelled FASA to its second consecutive Super-Y League North American Finals appearance, which takes place Dec. 7-11 at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. FASA finished the regular season with a 5-2-1 record, finishing in second place.
“We knew it was going to be a tough road, but we got back in, and the team’s really looking forward to going back and taking another shot at it this year,” Cinalli said in an interview with soccerwire.com.
That makes four FASA teams that have qualified for national finals this year. Both Super-20 male and female teams qualified and played in July. The Super 20 men reached the semifinals before falling 3-0 to the Chicago Fire, with defender Brice Colcombe being named to the Super-20 League all-tournament team.
FASA’s Super 20 women went 0-1-2 in the finals, losing to D.C. United 2-1 after having a potential goal disallowed, and tying its other two matches against TSF Academy and Ottawa Fury. The U-13 Hotspur boys (currently U-14), coached by Keith Marine, have also qualified for December’s championships.
Last season, FASA Impact reached the finals with a first place division finish and lost in penalties to a talented Atlanta Fire United squad, which also competes in the Elite Clubs National League, after nearly scoring a game winner that hit the crossbar and was inches from going in before being cleared.
This year, the Impact squad hopes to go a little further, and come away with a championship, though its only two Super-Y losses this year have come against the same Atlanta Fire United team, though both were on the road. He said the team’s unselfish play has been key in its success.
“I think what makes our team special is that we don’t have [just] one person we rely on,” Cinalli said.
He has had scoring contributions from his front line to his back, as well as in-between.
“We have a very balanced attack,” Cinalli said. “We attack as a team; we defend as a team. We don’t have one person that scored a ton of goals more than anybody else. … A team can’t scout us and say, ‘We’re going to shut down No. 8. They’re dead. We’ll just close down No. 8 and they can’t score.’ If they close down No. 8, No. 9 steps up.”
Cinalli said he doesn’t keep statistics of what his players do.
“The way we look at is, the one who finishes the goal is just doing her part of the job,” Cinalli said.
They have already begun preparations as a busy fall season gets underway, with the team coming off a trip to the finals of the Virginia Cup, playing in the U-18 Elite bracket against some formidable competition, only falling in the finals 2-0 to the top ranked U-16 team in Virginia, VSA Heat Blue U-16s, which is also ranked No. 2 in Region I and No. 2 nationally by GotSoccer.
Besides its Virginia Club Champions League North division games, FASA Impact will also make appearances in the Virginia State Cup along with elite showcase events, including the WAGS Tournament (Oct. 6-8), the CASL Girls Soccer Showcase (Nov. 30-Dec. 2) and the Disney Classic (Dec. 30, 2012-Jan. 3, 2013). The Super-Y finals come a week after the CASL event.
“This is a key showcase year for these kids,” Cinalli said. “Most of them are in their sophomore year in high school, so we’re really focused on getting to the top showcases. We’ve earned our way into them this fall, and getting into the Super-Y [finals] on top of that is really awesome.”
The team trains year round, at least four times per week, and Cinalli expects a lot out of them, especially since he plays with a smaller, but tightly-knit and focused roster. He’s hoping to stave off the injury bug, but that has already cast its spell in the Virginia Cup. He hopes the team can stay healthy through the fall, but said his dedicated group of hard working players are up to the task of competing against high-level competition.
And when he gets down to the IMG Academies in December, he wouldn’t mind a rematch against Atlanta Fire United, either.
“Our goal is to get down there and get a result,” Cinalli said. “We’ll going to certainly do our best.”