In their 2011 season, Braddock Road Youth Club (BRYC) 95 Elite of Virginia failed to make it past the quarterfinals of the Virginia State Cup, and finished fourth in the US Youth Soccer Region I Premier League.
"Our goal from the beginning was to get these girls recruited to play in college," BRYC head coach Larry Best said. "We aren’t a results driven team. Instead we focus on putting a good product on the field."
Whether results were sought after or not, they certainly came in the 2012 season, when BRYC won their first Virginia State Cup title, US Youth Soccer Region I Premier League title, US Youth Soccer Region I Championship and ultimately the US Youth Soccer National Championship.
"We’ve been focusing on player development and getting a group of likeminded kids," Best said. "We’ve made a huge jump and you have to give the kids all of the credit. They are very dedicated in getting technically and tactically better each year. "
Best doesn’t point to one specific moment to why his team started winning so many games, but rather he credits the development system and his player’s work ethic.
"We built from the back, into the midfield, and finally to the front," Best said. "Now we can score with so many different players. We have so many options because of our movement."
While Best credits his players in their ability to develop their technical and physical skills, Best emphasizes mental development as a key part to his team’s success as well.
"Our style takes a lot of movement, which takes time, replication and problem solving," Best said. "For us it’s kind of like chess. You always have to be thinking about your next move."
BRYC had some trouble in the 2012-2013 US Youth Soccer National League. Braddock Road tied for last place in the Blue division with five ties and two losses, but then won the Virginia State Cup and the Region I Premier League.
"We were in every single one of those National League games," Best said. "I would say our players only got discouraged in a sense that they are competitors. When they went back and watched film they saw the mistakes they made as individuals and as a team."
Braddock Road won all three of their group games at the 2012 Region I Championships, and won their semifinal game 3-0. Their reward was a date with Match Fit Chelsea Beat (NJ). The two teams had already met in the National League and Region I Premier League that year, with both results ending in a scoreless tie.
"Coming off the Premier League we felt we were in good shape because we knew a bunch of the teams," Best said. "Match Fit is a very good team, and we figured if we could just get a goal on them we would be in good shape. Once we got that goal I think it rattled them a little bit. Once we got that second goal our girls really seemed to turn the corner."
After a 2-0 victory over Match Fit, BRYC was headed to the National Championships, but before they could compete Best would make sure his team was physically ready.
"We knew we were going against the best players in the country, and we felt tactically we would be okay," Best said. "We spent time doing mini cycles of fitness. We trained in the heat of the day to make sure we were ready for South Carolina."
In their first game at the National Championships, BRYC avenged one of their two National League losses when they defeated Legends 95 (CA-S), 4-0. BRYC would then defeat Region III Champion CESA 95 Premier (SC) 3-1 to secure a spot in the championship game. In their final group game, BRYC would square off against 2010 National Champion and the other team to already qualify for the final, MVLA Lightning (CA-N).
"We played them earlier in a tournament and lost to them 1-0 in an even game. We knew how well coached they were, and we sat five or six players because we knew it didn’t matter. They played the game like it was any other one," Best said. "I told the girls they are probably going to hammer us, and they beat us 4-0. It’s tough to convince players the game didn’t mean anything, but we watched the film and felt confident."
Best’s strategy paid off as Adrienne Maday scored in the 71st minute to give BRCY a 1-0 victory in the final. Maday and Kahla Seymour tied for the most goals in the tournament with three.
"When the final whistle blew all the kids rushed to the field, and I just stood there and watched. It was amazing to see them achieve that moment of greatness," Best said. "They are the ones who put in all the work, and it was fun to stand back and watch."
Best was named the 2012 US Youth Soccer Girls Competitive Coach of the Year, but seems more interested in his girls signing to play in college.
"Along with Kahla (Wake Forest), our captains Kaleigh Riehl (Penn State), Annaugh Madsen (Virginia), Carlyn Baldwin (Tennessee) and Natalie Larkin (Princeton) have been the driving force for our team," Best said. "Shea Newman (Virginia) has been our leading scorer this spring and Rachel Moore (William & Mary) is a player on the rise who has been turning heads as of late with her play."
BRYC won the U-17 National League Red Division by winning six games and tying one more. Best is quick to credit US Youth Soccer and likes his chances this year at Nationals.
"These tournaments have bees massive for the girls getting recruited. The draw of coaches is huge for us, and I think our girls play their best in these situations," Best said. "At Nationals I think we have as good of a chance as anyone. It’s a funny game, and we could play our minds off and hit the post. Things have to go your way."