School Without Walls sophomore forward Catherine Gannascoli's nickname is "Cat," a common shortening of her first name. But as she proved in her team's 8-3 victory over Wilson in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship at RFK Stadium's auxiliary field yesterday, her quickness also makes it a fitting moniker.
The 5-foot-1 Gannascoli, the shortest player on the field, scored the Penguins' first two goals and then completed the hat trick to lead the Penguins to their third straight city championship, and second consecutive over Wilson. Senior Ashlee Gourdine also had a hat trick for School Without Walls (10-0-1).
"She's so small, but she's so fast," Penguins Coach Bob O'Connell said of Gannascoli. "We've been practicing getting her crosses in front of the goal, and it worked out today. It seemed when they concentrated on Ashlee early, they left Cat open. Then they covered Cat and left Ashlee open."
Prior to yesterday, Wilson had played School Without Walls the toughest of any team all season. The Tigers (11-5-1) had supplied the Penguins' only blemish, a 0-0 tie, and lost 2-1 in the schools' other meeting. But in the championship game, School Without Walls jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first half, and seemed buoyed by the return of junior midfielder Hannah Sloss, who missed all but two games this season because of mononucleosis. Sloss sent a sterling ball to Gannascoli on her second goal.
"We've played Wilson before, and we knew we had to come out strong," Gannascoli said. "Once you get a head start it's a lot easier to play."
Wilson sophomore Esmeraldy Arce scored two of the Tigers' three goals.
Wilson has two soccer teams. Its "green" team plays primarily a DCIAA schedule, including yesterday's game, and its "varsity" team plays mostly local private schools.