Playing together for the final time after nine remarkable seasons, the Springfield Spirit soccer club will try for its second national title today in the under-19 girls final of the U.S. National Youth Championships at Woodbridge High School.
The Spirit (299-18-18 since 1982) won the under-16 title two years ago in Philadelphia and will play the Fairfield (Ohio) Raiders at 2 p.m. in the 11th Athena Cup.
The boys final will follow at 4 p.m. with San Francisco United facing the Minnesota Blackhawks in the 52nd McGuire Cup. The Bethesda Alliance, which lost to San Francisco United in the 11th round of a penalty kick tiebreaker Friday night, will play Chapel Hill-Durham, N.C., in the 9 a.m. consolation game.
"It's been an emotional week," said Spirit striker Jon-nell Berry, the All-Met player of the year from Lee High School who's headed to James Madison University. "We want to go out with a bang. That's what has got us fired up. We don't want to lose our final game."
"It will be sad," Spirit Coach Bill Rine said, "but also a relief. We have taken this team from 9-year-olds and watched them develop and blossom."
If the Spirit wins the title it would become the 13th Washington area team to win a national youth championship. The last team to do so was last year's Fairfax Express, which won the under-16 girls title.
In the under-16 boys final yesterday, the Livonia (Mich.) Metro Magic Wolves thumped the Clearwater (Fla.) Chargers, 5-1, to win the Niotis Cup. Marcus Cudnik broke a 1-1 tie with a first-half goal and Travis Roy, Steve Weiger and Jeremy Banks scored in the second half.
Livonia routed the Bethesda Mustang, 4-1, in Thursday's semifinal.
The Mustang claimed third place with a 3-2 victory over F.C. United of Las Vegas. Tied at 2 after regulation and a 30-minute overtime, the Mustang had a 5-4 advantage in the penalty-kick tiebreaker as goalie Jean-Paul Chretien made a crucial save.
Will Cirrincione and Mike Imber scored for Bethesda in regulation time.
In the girls under-16 final, Willingboro, N.J., won the Masotto Cup with a 3-0 victory over the Arizona Shamrocks.
The Beechmont (Ohio) Blitz took the consolation with a 3-0 victory over the Seminole (Fla.) Gators.