In a trophy case already well-stocked with various items for significant achievements over many years, the Bishop O’Connell Knights now have a new piece of notable hardware to display.
The girls high-school soccer team recently won the four-team Northern Virginia Independent School tournament for the first time, earning a gold-colored trophy to add to the collection.
Over the years, the Knights have received awards for winning Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, state and invitational tournaments and for being ranked No. 1 in the country, like in 2004. Longtime Knights coach Alberto Starace said the team was delighted to win something different this fall.
“After they won, the players really embraced that trophy and were ecstatic to have it,” Starace said. “They didn’t want to let go of the trophy or to leave the field. That was nice to see, and I’m happy for our seniors. They got to finish with some hardware.”
Second-seeded O’Connell was 2-0 in the tournament. The Knights defeated third-seeded St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes, 2-0 in overtime, in the opening game, then downed top seed and host Potomac School, 4-2 in penalty kicks, in a title match, which was scoreless through regulation and overtimes.
The appearance in the finals was the first for O’Connell (final 10-3-2 overall record) in the four-year history of the competition. In 2019, the Knights lost to Potomac School in the semifinals.
“Our team really put it all together in this tournament,” Starace said. “Our defense was strong all season and kept us in games. That showed in those two tournament wins. The players kept the eye on the prize.”
In the win against St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes, Sophia Viscovich and Raleigh Burns scored the goals.
Making penalty kicks in the final against Potomac School were Viscovich, Bridget Prophett, Natalie Horstman and Gabrielle Conklin. Junior goalie Phoebe Carver earned the wins in goal, blocking a penalty kick in the final.
Prior to the Northern Virginia event, the Knights lost in the semifinals of the WCAC tournament to champion St. John’s, 2-1. O’Connell defeated McNamara, 2-1, in the quarterfinals.
Viscovich, Prophett and Delena Bucaj made first-team all-conference for O’Connell this season. Burns and Megan Heuschell were chosen second- team. Honorable-mention players were Carver, Sara Turner and Ava Signorelli.
Viscovich was the team’s leading scorer with eight goals. Burns scored four. Heuschell had four assists.
Overall, the Knights scored 23 goals and allowed 13.
Other seniors for O’Connell were Alexandra Velarde, Charlotte Velarde, Erin Garvert, Sierra Vance and Cecilia Yantiss.
“After the abbreviated and postponed season we played during the spring because of COVID, we believed we would be a strong team again this fall,” Starace said.
This past spring, O’Connell finished with a 6-0-1 record, scoring 17 goals, not allowing any and earning a final No. 13 ranking in the country by one national coaches poll.
NOTE: For Starace, the 2021 campaign marked his 37th as O’Connell’s head coach. He has won some 518 games at the school. He also won 129 as the former head coach of the girls varsity soccer team at Madison High School in Vienna. (He was able to coach both teams during the same year for a long stretch because Madison holds its season during the spring and O’Connell has always played in the fall.) Overall, Starace has coached high-school soccer for 41 years.