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Nov, 2022

FC Copa Academy Girls 2006 Recap An Amazing Run to the USYS National Final

Following is the story of the Road to the USYS National Final told by three of the players on FC Copa G06: Katelyn Figueiredo, Sienna Petro and Audra Toth.

FC Copa Academy Girls 2006 has achieved tremendous success since its inception six years ago. Most recently, the team reached the US Youth Soccer (USYS) National Final, which was hosted at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

The road to the 2022 USYS National Final for the FC Copa Academy G06 Black team started way before we arrived in Florida in July. In November of 2021, the preparation began as we set our sights on the National League PRO Tournaments in Orlando and Phoenix. At the conclusion of those events, the results of those six games left us in a great position to win the league as we scored a total of 17 goals and allowed none.

A critical key to these victories was the team chemistry that was built through the team meetings every night in preparation for each game. The meetings themselves, run by our head coach, Roberto Aguas, and assistant coach, Lori Berman, revolved around topics of mental toughness and fostered an environment that allowed us to be vulnerable enough to discuss our feelings openly without judgment. As much as soccer tactics and learning about teams’ playing styles, etc. is important, our meetings highlighted our character as a person off the field and digging deep into who we are as people. By being united as a unit and caring for each other, the team was able to step on the field focused on performance.

After seeing other teams celebrating together, holding up their awards for winning the league in Phoenix, our desire to win our bracket grew. There was only one more team to beat before that title was ours, and it was played back home on the East Coast in New York against New York Surf. The game was expected to be the hardest of them all, and the winner would determine who won the bracket. When the game was played, we pulled through to secure the victory and our spot at the USYS National Championship with a 6-0 win. We were heading to the National Finals!

We confidently entered the national tournament in Orlando, having been seeded first after our first seven games. We were the only team in our age group who had gone undefeated with no goals against, proudly carrying a goal differential of 23-0. We did not quite know what to expect from the tournament until we attended the induction ceremony on the first day. What an inspiring event being together with THE best teams in the country.

As pool play began, we won the first two games, which allowed us to be the first team announced to qualify for the semifinals, with one game still remaining! That was when we found out that we were going to face Real Jersey FC in the National Semifinal. We spent the day in between the group stage games and the Semifinal mentally preparing for the upcoming challenge. During our meeting the night before the game, our team was surprised with a personal video sent to us from Michelle Akers, the two-time World Cup Winner and former player for the US Women’s National Team. She shared a 10-minute video showing her support, inspiring us to embrace our underdog story and fight to come up on top in the end. Our catchphrase leading up the whistle was “We didn’t come this far, to only come this fa.” And in that moment, we realized how close we were to the finish line. We started out with an early goal 10 minutes into the first half under their intense defensive pressure and skillful attack. Our entire team fought to maintain the lead in the first half, but in the beginning of the second, they found the back of the net and tied the game.

The game quickly shifted into an emotional game as one team fought to defend their pride while the other fought to prove their worth. Finally, we broke the tie with an upper 90 shot late in the second half, bringing us to a lead with just 12 minutes remaining. There was a common belief among all of us that we were going to win, and not a single player on that field gave up until the final whistle blew. When the final seconds ticked off the clock, many of us dropped to the ground in total joy. The moment felt almost too big to comprehend in the moment, but the work was not done there. We still had a final to win.

The next game was what you would expect from a national final matchup. It was hard-fought and a nailbiter. After two overtimes, the game resulted in a 0-0 tie, bringing us to a heartbreaking loss in penalty kicks. Although this loss was very difficult to swallow, especially in the moment, our team understood that there was still so much to be proud of and that this was not the end of our journey. In addition to earning the Silver Medal, two of our teammates earned Best XI of the tournament, center midfielder Katelyn Figueiredo (#17) and centerback Gabriella Freeman (#37). Katelyn’s game-winning goal against Real Jersey FC was eventually voted Goal of the Tournament for the U-16 Girls as well.

Looking back on it all, we are proud of the amazing things we take away. We would not have been able to reach this point without the hours we spent as a team off the field, getting to know each other and building a foundation of trust that allowed us to be ourselves and support each other. Before ProScore highlights and Best XI awards, our team’s support system was each other, and that will never change, no matter how much attention we attract. Last week marked day 1 of the 283-day journey to the next National Championship, and that is what we are building up to again. That is our goal. To build ourselves up and continue the work again, and take away from all of our past experiences to prepare ourselves for another year of challenges.

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New Jersey Youth Soccer

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Freehold, New Jersey 07728

Phone: 609-490-0725
Email: [email protected]

New Jersey Youth Soccer

3 Paragon Way, Suite 400
Freehold, New Jersey 07728

Phone: 609-490-0725
Email: [email protected]
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