Bittersweet end for WVSC Titans
BARBOURSVILLE -- For the WVSC Elite Titans, a win was needed Sunday to advance to the semifinal round of the U-16 boys.
They fell just short, earning a 2-2 draw with Annandale FC (Va.), meaning the Virginia side advanced based on goal differential.
While the draw was a disappointing end to the tournament for the Titans, there was plenty to be proud of after finishing the group stage at 2-0-1 overall.
"A 2-2 game against a team like that is a pretty good result on a normal day, but obviously today it wasn't good enough for us to advance," Titans coach Bob Gray said. "Annandale is one of the oldest clubs on the East Coast and for us to go head-to-head with them says a lot.
"People can say what they want, but we beat two state champions in Rhode Island and Vermont and tied the Virginia state champion. I'm extremely proud of the guys."
What might be most impressive about the game is how the West Virginia side earned the draw.
Needing a win, things turned bleak 10 minutes into the second half when Annandale scored to go up 2-0, forcing the Titans to need three goals to advance.
Many teams might have folded facing such odds against a strong side, but the Titans went to work and never let up.
A coaching move by Gray also paid dividends for the Titans.
"We literally took a back out of the defense and moved a player forward because we wanted to go for it," Gray said. "It was risky, but it paid off because we played in their end most of the half."
After applying heavy pressure for several minutes, the Titans finally broke through on the scoreboard when Tommy Trupo beat the Annandale goalkeeper to a ball in the box with about 10 minutes remaining.
With renewed confidence, the Titans continued to press forward and had many good looks at the goal. Finally, in the 90th minute, Tyler Craft sent a ball into the box and Trevor Starcher headed it home to knot the score.
The goal came on the last play of the match as the referee blew his whistle to signal the end before Annandale lined up for the restart.
The Titans literally went down fighting to the last second.
"Mentally, going 2-0-1 and getting points in each match helps us tremendously," Trupo said. "It kills on the inside to know that we wanted to advance and we knew we could, but this will make us stronger for next year."
Trupo finished the tournament with two goals and three assists in three games while Starcher finished with three goals -- one in each match. The Titans defense was also solid, allowing just three goals in three games played.