On Tuesday, an electrical issue with the lights at Whitman pushed back the Vikings’ soccer match against Gaithersburg 24 hours, and the move was met with optimism by the Trojans first-year Coach Matt Bowling. His team feeds off on-the-fly situations. While the school is still under construction this fall, Bowling and his team have been relegated to practice at a city park baseball field, using the outfield grass as a mock surface. There is only one net, and when the Trojans do play with two nets during actual games this fall, a majority of them will be on the road.
“[The player’s] have persevered. And they have such a indomitable spirit, “ Bowling said. “They find a way to get positive out of what would normally be negative.”
That’s how Bowling describes his team’s 5-0 start to the season, with a chance to go 6-0 Thursday against Clarksburg. The Trojans will then face perennial power Whitman (3-3-1) Friday. It isn’t the first time Bowling has had to help a team through a difficult stretch; he coached at Coolidge in Northwest Washington in 2009 and 2010, resurrecting a program that had been dead when he arrived at the school.
At Gaithersburg, Bowling has plenty to work with in personnel. It has a back line that has allowed just two goals this season, and Bowling has been pleased with the production of his keeper, Cristian Reyes, who has recorded 26 saves so far in 2013. And the team has found a dependable striker in junior Neal Iannone, who has five goals in five games.
Bowling said the difference in the first five matches has been winning the possession edge, which will be key again Friday against Whitman, he said.
“All it means is that we get to wear our white jerseys,” Bowling said. “We just got to go on the road and do the very best that we can.”
Just hours after beating O’Connell 1-0 Tuesday night, Paul VI was preparing for a flight Wednesday to St. Louis for the Gateway City Classic. The Panthers will open the invitational tournament Thursday against Missouri powerhouse Thomas Aquinas.
The trip would have been more somber had Paul VI (3-2-1) not handed O’Connell (6-1-2) its first loss Tuesday. Senior midfielder Oscar Gonzalez scored on a free kick from 30 yards out with about four minutes remaining to improve the Panthers WCAC record to 2-0-1.
“It’s been kind of a tough road for us, playing some tough teams,” Paul VI Coach Matt Leiva said. “I like to think we’re one of the better teams in the area, we just got decimated this year. Really just [trying] to find our way as a team. Just creeping along with a few wins here . . . has helped.”
Paul VI has been plagued with injuries the first month of the season with the loss of four starters, including one of the team’s best offensive players in Jimmy Skipper (broken wrist) who Leiva said is capable of producing 20 goals in a season. Finding offensive production has been a challenge, especially now that Leiva has tweaked his formation in the midfield due to the injuries. The Panthers have relied heavily on the play of three-year starter at goalkeeper, Matt Harder, Leiva said, and Harder has recorded three clean sheets this season. The injured starters will trickle back into the lineup within the next month, when Paul VI gets into the meat of its WCAC schedule.
“We’ve kind of figured it out and filled some spots while they’re gone,” Harder said. “I think as the season goes on and we recover better, we going to try and look better . . . towards the WCAC championship and the state title.”
Michael Heitzmann, Addison Testoff and Jake Turney each scored goals to lead River Hill to a 3-2 upset win over Marriotts Ridge in overtime Tuesday. . . . Nick Notaro scored two goals (four in three games) to lead St. Albans to a 3-1 win over Bullis. . . . Since losing three straight earlier in the season, DeMatha has responded strongly with a three-match winning streak, including a key 2-1 win over WCAC rival Good Counsel on Tuesday.
1. Marriotts Ridge (8-1) LW: 1
2. Reservoir (7-1-1) LW: 2
3. St. Albans (8-1) LW: 3
4. Severna Park (7-0-2) LW: 7
5. Gonzaga (4-4-1) LW: 6
6. St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (8-1-2) LW: 8
7. Sidwell Friends (7-2) LW: 9
8. DeMatha (5-4) LW: 10
9. River Hill (8-1) LW: NR
10. Blair (5-1) LW: NR