“It was just a huge heads-up play,” Sofield said. “You don’t expect it from a freshman.”
After graduating 11 players off last year’s team, Bishop Ireton (10-4, 4-1 WCAC) entered the spring with just three seniors and a lot of room left to grow. Though this season hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Cardinals, the talented squad is beginning to play with a poise that belies its youth.
Ireton struggled to keep up with the area’s top two teams, Georgetown Visitation and St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes, early in the season, getting outscored 32-4, but Sofield’s squad continues to round into form as the playoffs approach. Holy Cross had beaten the Cardinals in four down-to-the wire games the past two years, including a pair of playoff meetings.
“The girls have come such a long way,” said senior defender Brenna Heaney, who plans to play at Division II Rollins College in Florida next year. “Not only are the juniors stepping up to lead but even the freshmen and sophomores. Everyone is coming together to make this work.”
Sofield, a former college player at Harvard, has been slowly building the program at the Alexandria private school, working hard to increase the difficulty of the schedule each season and boost the team’s local visibility. This time around, the coach knew the Cardinals – who are anchored in the back by junior goalie Olivia Cole (Florida) – had the talent to hang with the top teams in the WCAC. (Their only conference loss came to No. 3 Good Counsel, 14-9, on April 10.)
All five of the sophomores that start played for Sofield at the club level, including his daughter Charlotte, who has already given an oral commitment to play at North Carolina. He coached many of the other current Cardinals over the years in the Fort Hunt Youth Athletic Association.
Mathews leads Bishop Ireton with 41 goals and six of the team’s top eight scorers are sophomores with the freshman Larkin (18 goals, 14 assists) also on the list.
The addition of midfielder Isabel Obregon, who orally committed to North Carolina after winning Patriot District player of the year honors as a freshman at W.T. Woodson, bolstered the already loaded sophomore class, though she and junior Kendall Cunningham (26 goals, five assists) both missed the Holy Cross game with ankle injuries.
Sofield can see the on-field chemistry to match that impressive cache of talent coming along, slowly but surely.
“I know we’re going to have good weeks and bad weeks, but as long as we’re grinding and focused on what our goals are, we’ll make progress every day,” Sofield said. “What’s hard is getting the players to believe in that. This [win against Holy Cross] sort of validates everything they’ve been doing. It’s important to get one or two of these with a young team like this.”