Three times in the La Copa final. Three times second place.
In March 2020, the Ball Handlers, who received the lone goal from Qusay Abubu Awad in the title game, became champions.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to finally come through with the trophy after four years of playing in La Copa,” said Bilal Veysel. “Our freshman, sophomore and junior years, we were in the final and came up short every time. It was an astounding feeling to finally take home the cup.”
Edging out Copa FC, a squad comprised primarily of freshmen, was no easy task. Tawhed Sherifi, Copa FC’s goalie, was having an excellent tournament going into the decisive tilt. He allowed one goal prior to Awad putting the ball into the net.
“The reason that they scored that goal was that I had the ball passed back to me,” said Sherifi, recounting the scenario that led to the score. “I kicked the ball at the ceiling and my team and I didn’t know if the play was dead. We stopped playing and Qusay scored a tap in.”
Although it was a great disappointment, Copa FC has many opportunities ahead. As for the Ball Handlers, they’re elated and proved perseverance most often pays off.
Members of the Ball Handlers were: Veysel, Awad, Gina Lombardo, Brian Meta, Jason Whritenour, Andi Selimi, Thomas Mulhearn and Scott Tolochko. Mia Pueguero, whom Veysel referred to “as the glue that held the team together all four years,” served as manager.
“All of the guys on our team came directly from our boys soccer team, which also had an absolutely dominant season,” Veysel said. “It was no different for us to be playing together during La Copa.
“We carried over our chemistry that we’ve built playing together four years for the Bombers and used that to our advantage.”
Copa FC players were Sherifi, Manu Caltabiano, Rilind Ramadani, Genti Dauti, Filip Ruteski, Bridget Giordano, Damian Namouski and Alex Ruteski.
Veysel said he’s very grateful to the Spanish Club and Mrs. Reich for holding the tournament.
“It’s a competitive yet laid-back tournament where everyone has fun,” he said.