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ArlingtonSportsO'Connell repeats as state soccer champs

O’Connell repeats as state soccer champs

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Minus the penalty kicks, it was deja vu all over again for the Bishop O’Connell Knights, who repeated as state champions of the four-team girls Northern Virginia Independent state soccer tournament.

The second-seeded Knights (10-5-2) won the crown by defeating the host and top-seed Potomac School Panthers, 2-0, in the Nov. 10 high-school title match in McLean. A year ago, O’Connell topped Potomac School by virtue of overtime penalty kicks in the final match.

Potomac School was the 2019 champion.

Since the tournament began in 2017, it’s been feast or famine for the Knights. They have either won the title or lost in the first round.

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“I think we played our best game of the year today,” O’Connell coach Alberto Starace said. “We kicked the ball around well and played aggressively. Getting those two early goals helped. This was a great way to end the season, and it’s always nice to get to 10 wins like we did.”

On a left-footed blast from the top of the penalty box, senior captain Sophia Viscovich gave the Knights a 1-0 lead about 8 minutes into the contest off a pass from Hayden McCarty.

“I got the ball, had an open shot and let it fly,” Viscovich said. “It was a good pass.”

The score became 2-0 with 14:50 left in the first half when captain Sara Turner curled in a free kick from the left of the goalie.

“That was a great ball,” Starace said of Turner’s goal.

O’Connell senior goalie Phoebe Carver made a big save with her left leg while on the ground with 7 minutes remaining in the first half. She then made numerous big saves late in the match, tipping a couple of shots over the goal.

“I think we got tired, and they got a lot of shots at the end, but our goalie really came up with big saves and saved us,” Starace said.

Potomac School coach Ross McEwen agreed.

“Their goalie was outstanding. We couldn’t get one past her,” he said.

In the tournament semifinals at O’Connell, the Knights blanked third seed St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes, 2-0. Viscovich and Megan Lynch netted the goals. Rachel Zonavetch had an assist and Carver had the win in goal.

“We played well, controlled the game and our defense was solid,” Starace said.

Among other O’Connell players pressuring the goal in the tournament were Raleigh Burns, Kathryn Sarrge, Molly Prophett, Rachel Zonavetch and  Bridget Prophett.

Viscovich said repeating as state champions was difficult, but the team was motivated.

“We knew they [Potomac School] really wanted to win this year because we also beat them last year, but we had a great effort,” she said.

Prior to the state competition, O’Connell was the third seed and finished 1-1 in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament. The Knights topped Elizabeth Seton, 2-1, in its first match then lost to Good Counsel, 2-0, in the semifinals.

“Good Counsel did a good job limiting our scoring chances,” Starace said.

Viscovich was a first-team WCAC selection along with Bridget Prophett and Carver. Chosen to the second team from O’Connell were Turner and Burns. Making honorable mention were Zonavetch, Molly Prophett and defender Megan Heuschel.

“We play everyone tough and we competed with everyone,” Starace said.

NOTE: Starace finished his 37th season as O’Connell’s girls head soccer coach this fall. His O’Connell teams have won 518 games. He also won 129 matches as the head girls coach at Madison High School in Vienna during the spring. That gives him 647 career wins.

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