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St. John’s strikes with a header and holds on to beat Good Counsel in WCAC girls’ soccer championship

Farah Salam is embraced by St. John's teammate Emely Rubio-Garcia after scoring a goal in the first half of the WCAC championship against Good Counsel. (Terrance Williams/For The Washington Post)
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About 10 minutes into the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference girls’ soccer championship game Saturday afternoon, St. John’s senior Farah Salam took position in front of a goalpost when she made eye contact with teammate Emely Rubio-Garcia, who was preparing for a corner kick.

“When she looks at me,” Salam said, “that’s when I know she’s playing me.”

As the ball soared toward her, Salam called for it and headed it into the bottom right corner of the net.

Since she was a freshman, Salam thought she would win a WCAC title at some point, but a pair of playoff losses and a canceled season kept her waiting. Her goal proved the difference in the Cadets’ 1-0 win over Good Counsel at Paul VI High in Chantilly for their first league title in four years.

“I was hoping for my freshman year, but it feels good,” said Salam, a defender. “Senior year, leaving out with a ring.”

Good Counsel captures WCAC boys’ soccer title, ending 33-year drought

In 2017, St. John’s (13-2-1) was the D.C. area’s most dominant team with multiple players committed to Power Five colleges. The Cadets started a group chat that year called “Ring season,” and new players have been added to it every year since.

But St. John’s fell to Good Counsel in the 2018 championship game. The following year, the Cadets suffered a quarterfinal loss in the WCAC tournament. The coronavirus pandemic wiped out last season.

“When I took this job, my whole goal was to create a program and a legacy,” said Allison Diaz, who has coached at St. John’s since 2017. “Not just do this once here, once there. We’re here to kind of create a real legacy.”

For St. John’s to claim the WCAC title, its players needed to beat Good Counsel (17-1-1) for the first time. That task was challenging this season. The Falcons, ranked No. 1 by The Washington Post and in the top 10 of national polls, claimed the past two WCAC titles. They beat St. John’s, 3-2, on Oct. 7.

That defeat spurred St. John’s to play its best soccer and enter Saturday on a six-game unbeaten streak. The Cadets controlled possession through their midfield against Good Counsel, which was shut out for the first time this season.

“We wanted to beat every team, but Good Counsel was a rival,” Salam said. “When we lost last time, we walked away with our heads high. But we knew when we played them again, we had to pull one out.”

St. John’s players believed they could rattle their opponents with an early goal, which came on a connection that had been in the works all season.

“I always try to pass the ball to her,” said Rubio-Garcia, whose squad will try to defend its D.C. State Athletic Association title next week. “She’s my main header whenever I take a corner. After we get that initial contact, we just know it’s going to go in.”

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