Eight astonishing years after it began, the Springfield Spirit played its final game yesterday.
A 4-0 victory over the Fairfield (Ohio) Raiders in the under-19 girls final of the U.S. National Youth Soccer Championships gave the Spirit its second national title in three years and its 300th victory since the team was formed by Coach Bill Rine in 1982.
Playing before 6,100 spectators, the Spirit scored three second-half goals to win the Athena Cup in the oldest youth division. In 1988, it captured the Masotto Cup for under-16 clubs.
Their high school playing days lasted three or four years. A college career, which begins in four weeks for most of them, means no more than four seasons. But for seven players, this adventure continued for half their young lives.
"I'm so happy it ended like this," said Spirit defender Lisa Zemke, one of the original members. "This was the best way."
The Spirit (300-18-18 overall) was the 13th Washington area team to win a national youth title and the second to capture two championships in three years. A boys team, Montgomery United, won the Niotis Cup in 1981 and the McGuire Cup in 1983.
"This one was more special because I'm not sure we were expected to be here," Rine said, referring to two difficult games at the Eastern Regionals earlier this month.
After 20 uneventful minutes, the Spirit took control at both ends of the damp field and rarely let Fairfield inside the 18-yard mark. Springfield had a 14-1 shot advantage in the second half and 28-5 overall.
"This team just wore us down," Raiders Coach William Miller said. "But we have to keep it in perspective. Nobody gave us a chance."
In the 21st minute, Erin Riddle collected Kristyn Woodside's pass on the right flank and sent a 16-yard shot toward the far post. Goalie Leigh Cyphers couldn't control it and Jon-nell Berry, from Lee High School, pushed the rebound into the open corner.
Carrie Proost created the second goal 1:30 into the second half with a well-directed corner kick. Cyphers rushed off the goal line to deflect the crossing pass, but Miriam Fagan calmly placed the six-yard rebound between two defenders.
Kerry Page, a veteran defender from West Springfield High School, scored two goals on long shots in the 67th and 75th minutes to secure the championship.
Her first goal was on a 20-yard volley shot from the top of the penalty area that zipped just inside the left post. The second goal was almost an accident as Page's high pass from the right side sailed over Cyphers's outstretched arms and into the far side of the net.
"It's a bit sad, now that it's over," Rine said, "but this is a heck of a way to go out." Consolation for Alliance
In the under-19 boys consolation, the Bethesda Alliance overcame a two-goal deficit in the final 43 seconds of regulation and defeated the Chapel Hill-Durham (N.C.) Strikers in overtime, 5-3.
Craig Brannan scored at 89:17 and Justin Head headed in his second goal of the match with 14 seconds left. Dewan Bader's deflection of Jeff Stroud's shot gave the Alliance the lead in the 100th minute and Erik Imler's goal later sealed it.
In the boys final, the Minnesota Strikers defeated San Francisco United, 2-1.