LOCK-DOWN DEFENSE SENDS FC VIRGINIA U-16/17 TO KNOCKOUT ROUND

By Terry Monahan

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (June 28, 2018) - For the final 20 minutes of Group A's must-win game of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Girls' U-16/17 playoffs Thursday, Victoria Powell watched as her FC Virginia defense repelled every offensive attack from NTH Tophat.

Holding a one-goal lead and needing a win to advance to Saturday's quarterfinals, No. 11 overall seed FC Virginia managed to keep No. 7 NTH Tophat from getting a tying goal and finished off the 2-1 win in a flurry at the end to capture the top spot in Group A.

Unlike FC Virginia, Tophat (22-6-3) needed a win or a tie to advance to the next round.
"I think having to win helped us focus,'' said Powell, who played most of the season with the U-18/19 team being joining the U-16/17's in a leadership role for the playoffs. "It kept us down to earth, having to win or go home.''

But it took a herculean effort by the defense to ward off the Atlanta, Ga. club after Julie Schukle got her seventh goal of the season off a throw-in in the 62nd minute to slice the deficit in half.

Nine scoring chances after that goal by Tophat was enough to amaze even Powell, who was the lone player on her team on offense at that point.

"I was up higher, so I saw how much they swarmed all over us,'' said Powell, who assisted on the first goal and scored the second one. "It was amazing to watch, but I had faith our defense could keep them away.''

The winner on Saturday will advance to the semifinals, July 8-11 at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Mo.

FC Virginia (22-6-4), out of Loudoun, Va., tallied first as Carrie McIntire's blast toward the net slipped through in the 39th minute for a 1-0 lead.

It was McIntire's 17th goal this season.

"She hit it so hard,'' FC Virginia coach Bobby Puppione said. "The goalie was just unlucky and we were extremely lucky.''

After Powell scored in the 59th minute for a 2-0 lead after picking up a loose ball off a corner kick by Alexis Therot, the task of securing the victory fell squarely to the defense.

"We just wanted to stay compacted the last 20 minutes,'' Puppione said. "Keep the numbers back to defend.

"In the first half, I thought we played well and could have scored more than the one goal we got.

"We bent down the stretch but did not break.''

The defense was so tenacious for FC Virginia, goalie Darrian Burnett made just three saves all day, but the final two came in the last five minutes.

On the final save of the game, Burnett slid into an attacker in the penalty box before she could get a foot on the ball.

"We wanted to win, period,'' Powell added. "We knew we controlled our own destiny.''