U19 Girls Vienna Youth Soccer (VYS) Phoenix ‘99 had a dramatic come-from-behind, 2-1 win over Herndon United in the Virginia Youth Soccer Association (VYSA) State Cup. This was Phoenix 99’s third straight State Cup Final appearance and second Championship.
Most of these girls have grown up in the VYS Travel program. Phoenix '99 has eleven seniors, many of whom have been in the program since 2004 and a few have committed to continue playing in college:
- Margaret Covey – West Point USMA
- Abby Fusca – Elon University
- Brigid Sullivan - Manhattanville College
- Whitney Wiley – University of New Hampshire (currently a junior)
The memories, experiences and lessons these girls have learned and shared go far beyond the soccer field. Phoenix '99 senior goalkeeper and captain Christina "Nina" LaRow remembers how this team through respect and friendship helped her heal through a particularly scary time.
"I’ve been the main goal keeper for the Phoenix ’99 team since the beginning when we were eight years old. We accomplished a lot, but there was one moment for me that made me truly feel honored to be a part of this team.
When we were about 13 years old, I tore my ACL and meniscus, which put me out of soccer for 9 months. In the weeks leading up to the surgery, I was so scared that I was going to be kicked off the team and that I’d never see my soccer friends again (I went to a different school than my teammates).
I showed up to a soccer practice as soon as I was able to walk with the goal of showing that I wanted to stay on the team no matter what. I introduced myself to Coach Hank (this was his first year coaching us and I had not yet met him since I was still recovering in bed), and he gave me a huge smile and called out, “Hey Patriots Black (the name for Phoenix ’99 at the time)! Come over here and greet your captain!” My team immediately stopped the drill they were doing, ran over to where Coach Hank and I were standing, and gave me a huge hug.
I found out later that practice that they had voted me to be their captain. Even now I still don’t know of any team that has the same kind of love and friendship that Phoenix ’99 had when we were 13 and maintained throughout our years together.
Before we played a big game, Coach Hank would tell us to look at each other, reminding us of why we play to win. I don’t play to show off my skill or to take the glory of a victory. I play so that my teammates get the amazing, heart-pounding feeling of triumph that winning brings, and I know for a fact that they play for the same reason.
I’ve been blessed to play for Phoenix ’99, and I know that we will continue to be best friends even though we won’t see each other on the field 5 out of 7 days of the week."
Senior captain Margaret Covey remembers the hard work and dedication she and her teammates put forth every season, and how her teammates helped her get through the rigors of being a TJ student.
"For my tenth year with the Patriots, ending our legacy with a state cup win was priceless. This team was always my dream.
Starting on the bottom team I never could have imagined becoming a starter or captain for Patriots Black (now Phoenix 99). In high school, this team truly became my second family, as it often seemed that I spent more time with them than with my own family. My afternoons, weekends, and summers were consumed with soccer, and I loved it.
Now a senior at Thomas Jefferson HS Science and Technology, I look back and know that soccer practice and games were my sanctuary; TJ was tough, but these girls got me through it. I could not thank Phoenix 99 enough for the memories and opportunities, but most importantly showing me what true friendship is and the value of it.
There is one person I could not forget to thank, and that is Coach Hank. I could write a book on everything he taught me but to keep it short, Coach Hank believed in us. He taught us how to play with each other and how to make the game look pretty. He not only cared for us as soccer players, but as people, and I can only one day hope to be as wise, caring, giving, and respectful as him.”
Rachel Jackson, one of the original four members of the team, appreciates the close bond and support among the players.
"I have played on the VYS Phoenix since it was created. The Phoenix program in general has built an incredible community around Vienna. I have run into girls of all age groups who play for other Phoenix teams and have been able to strike up a conversation and get to know them better. The Phoenix program connects the players on the field and also creates a bigger soccer community around Vienna. I have had an amazing experience playing for the VYS Phoenix ‘99 team, from the coaches to the players everything has been wonderful.
Our head coach, Hank Leung has been an influential part of my soccer development. He has made a personal connection with me and helped me train harder to become a better athlete and a better person."
Throughout my years on the team I have made lasting bonds with all of the players. It is a great feeling to be on a team where everyone supports each other. Our team continues to push each other and I can see our success. I am sad to leave the Phoenix program as I go off to college, but I know it is something I will always remember.
Phoenix ’99 is the second Vienna team to win two State Cup Championships. The team was also a State Cup Finalist in 2016/17 and 2011/12 when they were known as Patriots Black. As a result of their State Cup success, Phoenix ’99 is invited to their fourth US Youth Soccer Region I Championship next summer. In 2012, Phoenix ’99 was the Region I Finalist.
Among the many Phoenix ’99 accomplishments, they are two-time champions of the Virginia Premier League (VPL) and represented Vienna and Virginia in the National Premier League Championships the past two years. This past summer they went to the championship game, finishing as the Finalist. Phoenix ’99 also has three Jefferson Cup championships, a Disney Showcase championship, a WAGS Tournament finalist, and three Virginian championships.
Phoenix ’99 coaches/trainers over the years: 2009-2012 Nick Carlin-Voigt, 2012-2017 Hank Leung, and 2017-Present Michel Vanderhart.
We congratulate the players, parents and coaches of VYS Phoenix ’99 and are very proud of them for their accomplishments and successes! Go Vienna!
Pictured above: C. Davis, C. Polk-Trauman, G. Fisher, A. Fusca, E. Brown, J. Parades, T. Kuzin, W. Wiley, M. Covey, L. Wilcox, R. McFaul, S. Kaup, C. LaRow, K. Hoefling, R. Jackson, S. Devin, M. Lacroix. Not pictured: S. Cilluffo, C. Howard, A. Lockard, A. Pogreba, B. Sullivan.