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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Teams show tremendous growth at DC SCORES Capital Cup

(View Capital Cup photos HERE.)

As the final whistle blew, a large throng of fans stormed the field at Bell Multicultural High School.

A year and a half ago, Raymond Education Campus didn't even have a middle school soccer program. Now, on a fair-weather late November Tuesday, the community celebrated winning the girls Capital Cup Championship.

"It's super exciting," said volunteer coach Ariel Berroa after Raymond's 1-0 victory over Cardozo Education Campus. "It's a really nice achievement for the kids and me, too. Yeah, I feel really good."

Raymond's win demonstrated how quickly kids, when given a team and strong support structure, can thrive as one.

The same can be said of the Lincoln Middle School boys team, an annual fixture in the Capital Cup. After many of his leaders graduated last spring, coach Popsie Lewis wasn't sure what to expect from the team of mostly sixth- and seventh-graders that came to the first September practice.

"I only had two returning players and within the first week I lost one of them," Lewis said. "I definitely was searching for leaders. In the beginning of the season, that was the hardest part for these kids."

September and October practices weren't easy — and the team absorbed plenty of lumps — but gradually leaders emerged, kids Lewis knew he could lean on to set a positive example for teammates.

Dylan, Anthony, and Isaac — who, Lewis said, scored 15 of Lincoln's 16 regular-season goals — stepped up and filled the leadership void. And on Tuesday night, Lewis had nothing to worry about as the Knights played tremendous team soccer en route to a 6-2 victory over Cesar Chavez Prep in a rematch of last year's Capital Cup.

"Those guys really stepped up and took the challenge that I gave them becoming leaders," Lewis said. "I was looking for leaders, not so much followers. Those kids stepping up and doing that for me, it made a huge difference."

The reason DC SCORES added a middle school program at Raymond was demand. So many kids who were in the program during elementary school would become too old for the team and be left without a team. On Tuesday, the Raymond girls demonstrated how the Tigers have taken advantage of the opportunity to be on a team — from third through eighth grade.

Berroa said the Capital Cup wasn't so much a goal of the team as it was a result of the girls gaining confidence throughout DC SCORES' fall season. When the Tigers came back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to tie Chavez Prep and win on penalty kicks, Berroa and his fellow coaches knew what they were capable of.

"That gave them the confidence to reach here and win the Cup."

And as evidenced by the large mass of people rushing the field, the Raymond community has embraced its DC SCORES teams and loves celebrating the Tigers' successes.

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