Herndon United made a game plan at the start of the 2016-17 season: the highly successful U18 girls team would compete only in tournaments during the Fall, preparing themselves for US Youth Soccer's highly competitive Region I Eastern Regional League (ERL) in the Spring of 2017. Eight tournaments, to be exact. Then they went to work.
From their first preseason tournament (the Eastern Development Program's Fall Kickoff Maryland Tournament Aug. 19-21) through their last (the NSCAA's College Showcase Los Angeles Jan. 14-16), they won 19 games, tied three, and lost just two. Along the way, they scored an average of 3.46 goals per game and conceded an average of less than one (0.96). They took home Championship medals from five of the eight competitions.
One of the sweetest victories in this remarkable string of successes was the Disney Soccer Showcase in Orlando, Florida, from Dec. 31, 2016, to Jan. 3, 2017. The team's longtime coach, Total Futbol Assistant Director Todd Hamlin, shared some of the drama of the title match:
"This year's Disney championship game was one of the most thrilling matches that I've been a part of as a player or coach.
United showed excellent poise, resiliency, and resolve throughout the match. It was an event filled with overcoming deficits. The team trailed in the first half of each of their group matches and came back to win all three. We were down 0-1 at halftime of the final and just like the previous games had it tied early in the 2nd half.
The girls played extremely well the first half and were unlucky not to take the lead. We conceded with about 5 minutes to play and it would have been easy for the team to accept the loss at that point, but United were fantastic in their resiliency and created a few opportunities in the closing minutes which led us to tie the match with less than a minute to play.
Once we got to overtime, we had great confidence and it wasn't surprising that we took the lead. The team displayed wonderful determination to keep the opponent from scoring and secure the victory."
Champions of the U18 Premier Division - NSCAA College Showcase (Los Angeles, CA, Jan. 16, 2017)
Champions of the U18 Premier Black Division - Disney Soccer Showcase (Orlando, FL, Jan. 3, 2017)