Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.
Once again, it was right there. It was O’Connell’s to win. Once again, the DJO girls did not. And, once again, it was Good Counsel blocking the Knights’ path to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship—derailing the O’Connell contingent for the fourth time in five years, 3-2, in OT in the WCAC championship finale at the Maryland SoccerPlex facility.
It was disheartening. Gut-wrenching even. Four times, five years. To the same nemesis, nonetheless. And, in the end, as before, it was not meant to be.
This was to be the DJO girls’ year. A talent-laden senior class was returning, with as many as six DI players in the fold. That was 12 months ago. What has transpired since has had more drama than a network television adventure, with club soccer playing havoc with the Lady Knights’ roster and indirectly dismantling what looked to be an awesome 2014 campaign.
Perhaps no team in recent memory, or, for that matter, ever has faced more adversity in the form of commitments to both travel ball and high school soccer here at O’Connell—a situation which is unique to the three Virginia schools in the conference: the issue being travel or club soccer versus high school soccer. Club soccer has always reigned supreme, because of the college exposure it provides for its players—and its big season on this side of the Potomac is in the fall with State Cup play and the likes, while Maryland’s club campaign is in the spring. Advantage Good Counsel! And with the time demanded of both club and scholastic commitments, players are pressed into three to four games a week not to mention double practices twice a week. Direct conflicts, club, more often than not, prevails.
Yet, O’Connell persevered, earning the DJO girls’ 23rd finals berth in Coach Alberto Starace’s 30 years at the helm. That, in itself, is amazing! Thirty years, 23 appearances in the Catholic league championship game. And, even more impressively, ten times his girls have taken home the championship trophy/banner.
Highlights on the season included the Lady Knights’ Senior Night win over Georgetown Visitation, a 6-0 rout in which Starace’s squad dominated in all aspects of the game. It was as good as the DJO girls had looked all season. Optimism reigned! Post-season play was here – and the O’Connell girls were peaking at the right time. O’Connell also came up big in the WCAC semifinals, eliminating a good Ireton team, 2-1, at BI – and, in doing so, avenging an earlier 4-1 loss to the upstart Cardinals, who netted four second-half goals en route to this stunning upset decision.
Nobody had a better season than Kyra Alexander (pictured left). She played with a love of the game and a passion like no one else. She played hard—and, more importantly, she came to play, each and every day. From Day One, she was spectacular. Not surprisingly, Kyra led the team in scoring, netting 11 goals, and registered two assists on the season.
Lauren Harkes (pictured top), a 1st Team All-Met a year ago, is just an awesome talent. Her presence in the midfield makes everyone else on the field a better player. Her passing skills, touch with the ball and all-around game are tremendous. In my estimation, almost too unselfish, Lauren finished with four goals and seven assists.
Skill-wise, you gotta love Sara Wilson’s (pictured right) game. Her ball-handling and one-on-one skills with the ball are the best. She is a dynamic little talent, who possesses tremendous speed and quicks. She showed her versatility by making the move to defense late in the season, bolstering the defensive line for the tournament.
Also a standout, Jenna Ferraro had another stellar season on the back line. Her drive and determination make her a special player, as does her physical play. In big games, she came up big—time and time again.
Four-year varsity starter Elena Williams, a terrific athlete in her own right, was very good in the air. Forward Amanda Green (pictured left) made her presence known along the frontline with her aggressive play and physicality. Lizzie Brooks provided support in the midfield, helping anchor the defense. Gigi Foster’s versatility and quickness was extremely valuable from her outside back position, capable of moving up into the attack. Youngster Lily Harkes played well in the midfield, especially for a freshman. Sophia Echeverria was on the outside and scored some marvelous goals for the Lady Knights. Kiera Wainer did a good job in goal and was pushed by Jennifer Joseph, who is also a freshman.
Overcoming a 0-4 start, the DJO girls did themselves proud by season’s end as this core of seniors advanced to their third straight WCAC championship game—finishing 9-8-1 on the season playing against some of the country’s elite programs.
This is Tommy Orndorff and that was The Week That Was.