It comes with losing...with not fulfilling expectations...with coming up short, when all is said and done. Competitors feel the pain. It is who they are. For some, the pain will never leave. Again, it is who they are.
Coach Alberto Starace is hurting today. He will be hurting tomorrow. And the next day... and, very probably, the next day.
In all likelihood, Coach Starace will live with Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Good Counsel in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship game the next 365 days... just as he has the past six years. It is a run which disheartens him, troubles him even.
This year was to be different. Good Counsel was still Good Counsel, but Starace liked his team’s chances this time around. From the beginning, he recognized that there would be no conflicts with the Virginia State Cup tournaments or the Bethesda tourney – events which have hampered the Knights in recent seasons past. Although, unlike his Maryland counterparts, he still had to deal with the club commitments of his players, from practices to weekend tournaments to ODP events, he felt good going into Saturday’s championship final. The distractions were there, but State Cup play and Bethesda were not among them. All was good!
Or, so it seemed.
In the end, the DJO girls (12-3-1) succumbed to the talent-laden Good Counsel contingent in the evenly-matched finale. Starace’s girls played hard, but it was not enough. It was a year which had more than its fair share of drama and injuries, both of which haunted the Knights on this night and throughout the fall campaign. As is so often the case in these type matchups, the breaks went the other way – Good Counsel capitalizing on a header off a well-placed free kick and a non-call by the officials eliminating one last opportunity for the Knights. Once again, it was Good Counsel hoisting the WCAC championship trophy on Saturday evening at the Maryland SoccerPlex – celebrating their third title in four years, all finals’ wins over O’Connell.
One more time, it was not meant to be!
A disappointing finish, but, nevertheless, another stellar season for the perennial power, not only in the DMV, but also nationally. Highlights included victories over Washington Post Top 10 foes River Hill, Holy Cross and Bishop Ireton besides a 2-2 tie with Good Counsel during the regular season.
Top players cited included Lauren Harkes (pictured above), whose play the second half of the fall campaign truly ignited the Knights as she netted goals in the final six games leading up to the finals – finishing with eight goals on the year. Love her game! Not a better touch passer on the team, finding open teammates with the pass. She’s a very unselfish player, almost too unselfish at times.
Another player who really stepped up this fall is midfielder Jenna Ferraro. The junior standout was a force in the middle, with her physicality causing problems for the opposition. She was very tough to beat, good in the air and a force attacking the net when the opportunity presented itself. Her consistency, game-to-game, was amazing.
Coming off an injury which sidelined her a year ago, sophomore sensation Julia Phillips (pictured left) had another outstanding campaign. The talented mid is a very aggressive player who only knows one way to play...hard! She is a true competitor with excellent soccer skills. She is excellent in the air and easily one of the toughest players in the WCAC. Her drive and determination are tremendous attributes to her game.
Kyra Alexander’s versatility gave Coach Starace a lot of options come game time, as he moved her all over the field during the course of a game. Her best position was in the back, where her speed, savvy, strength and toughness curtailed opponents’ opportunities.
Striker Sara Wilson had a great year. This junior was the DJO girls’ leading scorer with nine goals on the season. Game-in, game-out, she displayed tremendous ball-handling skills maneuvering through traffic.
California import Tara Morris was a great addition to the team. She’s an awesome talent, very gifted athletically. Her speed and attacking capabilities added a dimension to the Knights’ game that was lacking a year ago. Love her corner kicks and athleticism! She’s the real deal….. a super soph and very probably our best player, to my thinking anyway.
Not to be overlooked, Monica Pearring (pictured left) came up big time and time again over the course of the season, doing a masterful job in goal for the Knights. Besides Alexander and Morris, Jamie Dickman and Elena Williams rounded out a backline that limited opposing teams to few opportunities on goal. The only team allowed to take more than 10 shots on goal over the course of the entire season was Good Counsel.
All in all, another strong showing by the girls’ soccer team – coming up just one game short in the end. Few programs have ever achieved all that girls soccer has here at O’Connell under the leadership of Coach Starace. It pains him to lose, and that, as much as anything, is why he is a winner. In his 29th year at the helm, his overall record at DJO is 450 wins, 75 losses and 49 ties. His teams have been in the Catholic League championship game 21 times, winning ten titles. To be sure, some tremendous accomplishments.
This is Tommy Orndorff and that was The Week That Was.