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Coach Breathes Fire Into the Dragons

Moravek Makes Notre Dame a Program to Watch

By Charlie Moss
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page LZ14

Practice has been underway for nearly 30 minutes, but Liz Lipovsky and her teammates have yet to find the time for anything more than a quick sip of water. Footwork drills precede agility drills, which lead to speed drills before reverting back to more footwork training.

Even with sweat beads dripping from her face, Lipovsky, a senior midfielder at Notre Dame Academy, has no designs on slowing down -- mainly because her coach, Bill Moravek, won't allow it.

"The brand of ball that they're playing is quite different than what you're used to seeing," said Bill Moravek. (Len Spoden For The Washington Post)

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In his second year at the Middleburg school, Moravek has altered significantly the direction of the Dragons' girls' soccer program. His goal is to transform a team that routinely has been in the middle of the pack into one of the more dominant in the area.

"He took over the program last year and really turned it around, I think," said Lipovsky, who has accepted an offer to play at Wheeling Jesuit next season. "It was good before he came, but it's even better now. I think he's a lot better than a lot of coaches with his doing technique work, ball work and skill training. That's what you want to focus on."

If anyone understands what it takes to get to the top, it's Moravek. After growing up in Loudoun County, Moravek quickly worked his way up through the coaching ranks, culminating in stints as an assistant with Southampton FC in England's premier division from 2001 to 2003 and the Jamaican national team in 2003.

He returned to Loudoun, where he set up Moravek Soccer School in Leesburg and went to work at Notre Dame. It has taken Moravek some time to get used to instructing at the high school level -- he even admitted he treated the girls at the outset similarly to the way he would professionals -- but his techniques and style have grown on the players.

"Last year when he came, we did a lot of running and conditioning," said senior goalie Erin Stamer. "This year it's been a lot better. We've improved greatly, working together well and passing a lot more than we have before."

The results have been apparent. Led by midfielders Lipovsky and junior Kat Thomas, Notre Dame has posted a 6-0 record and outscored opponents 30-3. There is further evidence the program is moving in the right direction. The Dragons posted a 3-0 win over Seton and a 2-0 victory over Highland this year, two schools they had never beaten.

"They've improved a lot. The brand of ball that they're playing is quite different than what you're used to seeing," said Moravek, who stresses ball possession. "I'm trying to expose them to something different that's being done in more successful places. When we practice, it's high intensity, and that's the way it should be in our games."

The Dragons are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to determining where they truly stand among the area's best teams. Notre Dame currently has no conference affiliation, it is unable to schedule games against some of the stronger Virginia public school teams whose schedules are set well in advance, and it will have no postseason tournament.

Regardless, Moravek has instilled in his players a belief that they are more than capable of competing with any team at any time. Because of the program's marked improvement, Notre Dame is poised to field a girls' soccer team next school year that will play in the fall and spring, a move designed to attract more players to the rural campus and enable the school to schedule some of the tougher teams.

"It's difficult to know where we are, because nobody recognizes us," said Thomas, who returned to Notre Dame after a year at Loudoun County. "In the fall, there's Paul VI and O'Connell, and it will be nice to get to play them. We've got a lot of really good players, and I think we'll be able to compete."

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