Last year's champs defend their turf
BARBOURSVILLE -- Out of the 18 championships played Tuesday morning at the Barboursville Soccer Complex, six featured defending champions from 2009.
Five of those six teams left West Virginia smiling for the second straight year after earning titles in the US Youth Soccer Region I Championships.
Considering the tough road many teams had to take just to advance to the Region I Championships, having five repeat champions is an eye-opening feat.
"It's so hard to even win the state championship, but to also win here again, that's a heck of a run," said Ed Leigh, coach of the U-19 Girls FC Bucks Vipers (PA-E). "You have to have players who are focused and are willing to go the extra mile."
That extra mile was seen in the U-18 Boys championship match between defending champion YMS Xplosion (PA-E) and TSF Academy Elite (NJ).
After a save on a penalty kick by YMS goalkeeper Drew Hutchins late in regulation, the teams battled into overtime before Johnny Louisignau scored in the 110th minute to lift the Xplosion to a second-straight title.
YMS Xplosion coach John Greaves said at this level, everyone plays the game well, but it is those teams that focus on preparation that find the most success.
"Their whole preparation is difficult," YMS Xplosion coach John Greaves said. "They are all hard-working and disciplined, and they've brought a professionalism about them in their training.
"The soccer side is actually the easiest part. Trying to get them to realize that rest and drinking lots of fluid and eating proper foods -- you know, pasta at 10 a.m. isn't the best thing to eat, but it's the real stuff -- it's all those things."
In addition to the FC Bucks Vipers U-19 Girls and the YMS Xplosion U-18 Boys, three other teams claimed a Region I sweep of the two-year stint in West Virginia.
At U-15 Girls, Scorpions Elite (MA) earned the title with a 2-1 win over Beadling 94/95 (PA-W).
In U-17 Boys, the Hicksville Strikers (NY-E) overcame an early deficit by scoring two goals in the span of three minutes for a 2-1 win over FC Stars of Massachusetts.
And at U-17 Girls, Liz Agiato scored in the 90th minute to give Syosset Sting 92 Elite (NY-E) a 1-0 win over Penn Fusion 92 Gaels (PA-E).
The only defending champion that made the championship, but came up short in a repeat was the U-18 Girls PDA Fire (NJ), who lost 1-0 to Virginia's McLean MPS Dragons.
Heading into the match, the Fire had won three straight Region I championships under coach Tom Anderson, who is also the club president.
"We set our goals high at the start of the year, so when we don't meet them, we are a little disappointed," Anderson said. "Still, we won three in a row coming in so we've had an impressive stretch and the girls battled hard and that's what its about."
The champions will now travel to the US Youth Soccer National Championships, which will take place July 21-25 in Overland Park, Kan.