With a veritable mixing bowl of players, Episcopal dominates the scene in boys' soccer

Episcopal soccer players discuss team diversity and the talented members who hail from other countries.
By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 11:04 PM

The sequence started with a quick pass from Ntokozo "Schillo" Tshuma of Zimbabwe to forward Ross Higgins of Delaware. Higgins then sent a pass to Rhode Island's Trevor Bobola, who played a perfect ball back to a sprinting Tshuma, who effortlessly placed it into the upper netting to give the Episcopal boys' soccer team a 1-0 lead over Georgetown Prep on Tuesday in North Bethesda. Goalkeeper Bennett Jones (North Carolina) made Tshuma's score stand up for a 1-0 victory.

The win extended the Maroon's unbeaten streak to 63, best in the area in any sport, and was further evidence of the private Alexandria boarding school's ability to win without borders. Consider: Episcopal (17-0-1) has nearly as many players from Africa (three) as it does Virginia (five). The program's mixing bowl of players hail from as far as Cameroon, Senegal, and Hong Kong, as well as from Maryland, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

The players have left their homes and families behind to attend school here, and the mix of cultures and playing styles has yielded a recipe for one of the country's best high school soccer programs. Episcopal last lost Nov. 7, 2007 (1-0 to Norfolk Academy). The Maroon has won the past two Virginia Independent Schools titles and is a clear favorite to make it a third later this month.

"The most fun that I have is putting together all these guys with different styles of play and different characteristics as players and trying to get them to blend well on the field," said Coach Rick Wilcox, the fall 2009 All-Met Coach of the Year. "And it's a lot of fun that way because they all come at it with passion. That's one thing they share, these guys love this sport and they love to play together and they love spending time together."

Tshuma, the indisputable star of the team, is the third player to come to Episcopal from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, the second-largest city in the southern African country. All three players have had a major impact on the soccer team.

Part of a partnership that has developed between a charity, Grassroot Soccer, and Episcopal, Tshuma - as both an international student and standout soccer player - is the most prominent example of the team's unique make-up.

Episcopal's sprawling campus, tucked away almost unnoticed on Quaker Lane, has the feel of a small college. Approximately 7 percent of the student body are international students, with students from England, Jamaica, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Nigeria. Players say the family environment at the school - Episcopal is the metropolitan area's only school where 100 percent of the students are boarded - creates a closeness that is unmatched by any other opponent.

"Our team chemistry has always been one of the best things about our team," said Jones, who is from Winston-Salem, N.C. "The fact that we live together, these guys become kind of like your family, your brothers."

The players have taken their own unique paths to Episcopal.

Forward Dominique Badji (16 goals, 8 assists) is a native of Senegal who has lived in Zimbabwe and Tanzania. Badji, whose stepmother is American, learned of the school through a friend and enrolled. Forward Cliff Lam, a native of Hong Kong, attended boarding school for middle school in the United States and came to Episcopal to continue his education.

Forward Arnaud Adala Moto (13 goals, nine assists) made his way to the United States from Cameroon as a top basketball recruit. A coaching connection in his home country earned him an invitation to a camp in South Africa sponsored by the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program. Eventually, the 6-foot-6 junior was recommended to Episcopal basketball coach Jim Fitzpatrick, who got in touch with Adala Moto and eventually brought him to the school.

Adala Moto's journey is not unlike that of Tshuma, the latest member of a pipeline from Bulawayo to Episcopal.

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