(View the full Capital Cup album on Flickr)
Written by Jake Lloyd
In recent weeks, even as the weather has gotten chillier, more and more students at Capital City Public Charter School have arrived earlier in the morning before school.
Braving the cold, members of the schools' soccer teams have taken to the new mini pitch built by the U.S. Soccer Foundation to practice — on their own, in addition to their usual after-school practices with DC SCORES.
"They practice so hard against each other," Petersen said. "I have to tell them to scale it back a little bit."
At both CCPCS and Raymond, soccer is an embedded strength of the school community. On Tuesday evening, both schools brought out large throngs of fans to watch the CCPCS girls and Raymond boys win their first Capital Cup middle school championships in thrilling fashion.
The CCPCS girls relied on the communication of their star forwards Precious and Tatiana to hold on for an exciting 2-1 victory over Lincoln Middle School. The Raymond boys outlasted Lincoln on penalty kicks to conclude a tremendous fall middle school season.
And across the city, Paul Public Charter School beat Kelly Miller Middle School in an equally competitive co-ed championship game.
Precious and Tatiana, seventh-graders, have been playing together for several years. So it's no wonder that the pair of forwards communicates well on the field. What impresses one of their coaches, Claudia Rojas, the most is how they verbally also ensure their teammates are in the right positions on the field to be successful.
"They talk, they organize the rest of the team," said Rojas, now in her fourth season coaching. "They've been playing together, they've been working together since way before I met them."
Precious laced a beautiful shot from deep on the right right side into the upper left corner of the net for a 1-0 lead against Lincoln. After the Knights answered to tie up the score, that communication paid off when Precious found Tatiana on a deep ball down the right side for the game-winning goal.
After the final whistle blew, you couldn't remove the smiles from the faces of the CCPCS poet-athletes.
"They're just so proud of being a soccer player, being a school team," Rojas said. "Soccer is a big deal in Capital City."
The boys game was, simply, great soccer. Petersen marveled at how well Lincoln — winners of three of the last four Capital Cup boys titles — passed the ball and spread the field, a testament to their longtime coach Popsie Lewis.
The game is a neighborhood rivalry, with the schools less than a mile apart. Most of the kids know each other and play pick-up games outside of DC SCORES. A few weeks before the game, Raymond scored two late goals to forge a tie with Lincoln that helped them get into the playoffs.
And again, this one came down to the wire — a first-half Raymond goal equaled by Lincoln in the second half. Ultimately, penalty kicks decided a game that both teams deserved to win.
"We're really excited," Petersen said afterward. "The kids came a long way. We lost a lot of eighth-graders last year, so it was cool to see their progress all year. They got a lot better."
After the final kick, Raymond parents, teachers and others from the community rushed the field to celebrate with the kids — one last reminder of just how much soccer and DC SCORES mean to these communities.
"We have great fans," Petersen said. "They come for the away games during the regular season, they bring signs, make posters. It's a fun atmosphere, big soccer atmosphere."
Thanks to all the middle school coaches, parents and communities for another great fall soccer season. We'll see you at the Poetry Slam! Dec. 2-3.