The 2019 Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup (U12-U17) & Presidents Cup finals take place on Saturday, May 18, at United Sports Training Center in Downingtown.
Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals Add Their Name To Another Trophy
Two years ago, Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals Black won the inaugural Richard Groff Trophy as U15 Boys State Cup champions. This year, they added their name to the Frank J. Olszewski Trophy as the winners of the U17 Boys age group. The significance of his team's place on the perpetual trophies is not lost on Ukrainians' captain Josh Jones.
"It just means a lot to know all the people that came behind us like Frank Olszewski made this possible," Josh said. "Now we get to have the name of our team on their cups. It means a lot to us."
The Ukrainians defeated YMS United, 2-1, in a tightly contested final. For much of the second half, they held on as YMS worked for an equalizer. In the end, the Ukrainians held on, finishing atop the age group after a second place showing in 2018.
"It feels great," Josh said. "It's a goal of ours every year to win the State Cup. Last year we didn't get it done, so we found a lot of motivation to finish it off this year."
Chester Springs United Has Come A Long Way In A Short Time
Chester Springs United's Sam Graybill seemed puzzled trying to come up with an answer--how had a club, born in 2016, advanced to the Presidents Cup final so soon?
"It's just like, at practice, we bonded the first couple of practices," Sam said. "And we got better."
On Saturday, Chester Springs United clinched a spot in the U14 Girls US Youth Soccer Eastern Presidents Cup with a 4-1 win over Manheim Township Elite Sprinters.
"I think since we're such a new club, it's something crazy," Gabi Kobel added. The girls come various Chester County School Districts including Downingtown, Owen J. Roberts and Great Valley. But they have one thing in common that's led them to their success, according to Gabi: "We all have a drive to win."
LVU Completes The Three-Peat
When the final whistle blew on the U17 Girls State Cup Final, Lehigh Valley United breathed a sigh of relief. The team's celebration was somewhat muted--in part because they had been here before, mostly because of how grueling this particular triumph was.
LVU secured their third consecutive State Cup title with a 2-1 victory over a very tough HMMS Eagle FC Impact outfit.
"This one was a battle, for sure," LVU forward Ava Schaller said. "It was special because it was a really hard game."
The victory was also special for the trophy LVU won. The U17 girls compete for the Charlotte Moran Trophy, named in honor of one Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer's pioneers, especially in the women's game. Charlotte was instrumental in helping the Olympic Development Program (Ava and several of her teammates still compete with Eastern Pennsylvania ODP) become a pipeline of talent for regional, college and national teams. In many ways, women's soccer in general owes a lot to Charlotte's contributions, something that isn't lost on Ava.
Now that she and her teammates are toward the end of their youth careers, they know their impact will be felt by the next generation of players.
"The younger girls train. They want to be us some day," Ava said. "We want to leave them with the three-peat. We want that to keep on going when we're gone."
Team Spirit Drives 1776 United To State Cup
The U12 Boys State Cup Final may have been the best of the morning session. 1776 United Centurion and Penn Fusion Elite were tied at 0-0 during regulation, and at 1-1 after extra time.
When it came time for the spot kicks, the teams were locked there, too. Each player confidently dispatched his penalty. Just in time, though, Cole Carberry came up with a big stop. On Penn Fusion's final kick, he dove to his right and parried the ball away.
"I just guessed where the ball was going," Cole explained. He then immediately started cheering on Liam Mullen, who would take 1776's key kick. Liam found the left side of the goal.
"It was very nerve-wracking," Liam said. "There was a lot of pressure because it was the State Cup final. Cole made sure it would all be over. With him sitting there motivating me, it made it better."
Penn Fusion Starts Off Right
Penn Fusion Soccer Academy had a pretty good day at the cup finals before any games kicked off. The West Chester-based club, along with Penn Fusion Lehigh Valley, placed six teams in the State Cup and Presidents Cup Finals.
Penn Fusion Predators got things going with a 9:00 AM start in the U12 Girls Presidents Cup Final. The Predators defeated a strong Keyston Athletic Grifo team, 1-0.
"At the younger ages, if we don't continue to focus on player development throughout the season, when we get to the final game we'll lose our composure," Coach Sue Barr said. "I think we focused on development first and winning second."
Coach Barr certainly has experience there. She's been a longtime Eastern Pennsylvania ODP staff coach in addition to working at the club level. The results speak for themselves. Penn Fusion placed teams in both the U12 Girls Presidents Cup Final and the U12 Girls State Cup Final.
"With the younger players, we want to encourage them to take players on, build confidence and not be afraid to make mistakes," Barr said. And with the whole family, i.e. multiple teams from the same club there, they can gain confidence from the sidelines as well. "We get out here and we get to support each other. It's great having different levels."
Lebanon Valley Soccer Club Enjoys Their Moment
Reaching the under-18 age group as a team is a special thing: as players get older, some drift in different directions, whether it's moving on from soccer and changing clubs. That's not the case with Lebanon Valley Soccer Club. In perhaps the team's last cup experience at the state level, they came away with a 1-0 victory over Lititz Youth Edge in the U18 Boys Presidents Cup. The win was all the more special given the close-knit nature of the group.
"We've been playing, this whole team's been playing together since U7," captain Matt Hines said. "We're all best friends, man. It's awesome."
Not only have the players stayed at Lebanon Valley Soccer Club. They all go to Palmyra High School as well. That kind of chemistry is rare in the ever-changing world of youth soccer, and it means the boys can enjoy a cup final, and a trip to regionals, a little more. They know what works for them, even if it is a tad unconventional.
"We'll probably get back to practice, probably screw around like normal," Hines said of Lebanon Valley's preparation for regionals. "Go swim. Eat some pizza."