At times this year, Oakton boys’ soccer coach Todd Spitalny has had no response to the uncontrollable forces that have leveled his roster. For starters, he graduated his entire back line from last season’s 11-win team, including his goalkeeper Logan Cropper, who now plays at Marymount. Three other players left the program this year to play on club teams exclusively. And when the season officially started two weeks ago, Oakton was still without three of its best players due to injuries, including two of its top center-midfielders in Christian Ollen (concussion) Brian McDaid (strained back), as well as defender Sep Zamorodi, who is still recovering from a fractured tibia suffered last November.
“We’re missing a lot of guys,” Spitalny said. “Once we get those guys back, it’s going to be a different story for us. The question is whether or not we can gel.”
Even though it is not at full strength, Oakton has still started the season 3-0 and has thoughts of a deep postseason run this spring. Much of that is attributed to Spitalny’s ability to find and develop depth on a team that returns just four starters. The Cougars, who opened the season with convincing wins over South County, 3-1, and Washington-Lee, 4-1, followed by a 2-0 win against Madison, have found two talented forwards to power their attack in sophomore Armand Jeffris and junior Cameron Santoro. Jeffris has three goals in three games (including two against Washington-Lee) while Santoro had two goals in the win over South County.
“I think we’ve got certain opportunities that we’ve just taken, and we’ve worked hard to make those opportunities,” Jeffris said. “Not necessarily more mature or less mature, but we’re definitely giving it our best.”
Still, Oakton’s long-term durability is questionable even with Ollen, Zamorodi and McDaid all coming back from injuries. Spitalny hopes to have all three back in time for a road-trip to No. 2 Lake Braddock (2-0) on April 8, which could be the Cougars toughest test of the regular season. Lake Braddock has been impressive in its first two games, blowing out Chantilly 4-0 and rallying past Robinson 3-1 last week. It is one of three schools in the AAA Patriot District that has started the season undefeated, including West Potomac (3-0) and T.C. Williams (3-0), which has already beaten South Lakes (3-1) and Mount Vernon (0-1). W.T. Woodson (1-1) is also a heavyweight in the league, but was upset in the season opener by Centreville (1-1).
In the AA Dulles District, five teams remain unbeaten, including No. 7 Tuscarora (Va.) (3-0-1), Briar Woods (3-0), Loudoun County (2-0-1) and Park View (2-0-1). Tuscarora and Loudoun County fought to a 3-3 overtime tie in the season opener back on March 11, while Briar Woods and Park View have also earned overtime draws early this season.
“Our district is just very tough,” Briar Woods Coach Francois Bernard said. “One mistake, and you could find yourself, you know, losing quickly.”
Robinson soccer remains in a transition phase with first-year head coach Bobby Garza, who left Mount Vernon after last season to replace long-time coach Jac Cicala at the Fairfax school.
Cicala “is a legend, and those shoes, honestly, I don’t think will ever be filled,” according to Garza, who nonetheless is introducing a new system, and bringing a new style of play to the Rams this spring. Garza wants to leave his imprint on the program by emphasizing speed.
“We’re bringing in this new style to Robinson, a possession game that relies on speed and moving forward,” Garza said. “I can’t lie and say it’s been very smooth. You want to bring in a new system for the boys to play . . . get them to have more speed and more moving off the ball. Of course, they’re trying their best to catch up with it and it’s not going to be an overnight process.”
After opening the season with a 2-0 win over George Mason, Robinson (1-1-2) earned 1-1 draws against Battlefield and Stone Bridge. It took a 1-0 lead last week against Lake Braddock off a perfectly played set-piece in the first half of last Friday’s game — but it’s aggressive and up-tempo style was overshadowed by key mistakes made in the back-end in the 3-1 loss. The Rams received a breather this week with spring break, but the transition will continue at high-speed with next week’s schedule, which includes two quality tests in W.T. Woodson and West Springfield.
Even with a new coach, and the process of molding a new system, expectations are still high at Robinson, which finished 13-2-4 last year and advanced to the Virginia AAA quarterfinals. Cicala, who coached in the region for over 30 years, won a state title with the Rams in 2008.
Under Garza, Mount Vernon finished 16-2-2 last season, advancing to the Northern regional quarterfinals before falling to Cicala and Robinson in a penalty kick shootout.
“I know Robinson is deep-rooted in tradition, and I want to keep that tradition,” Garza said, “and also, at the same time, build upon new tradition.”
Oakton has found natural scorers in sophomore Armand Jeffris and junior Cameron Santoro so far this season, but senior midfielder Patrick Moore has been the Cougars’ most productive offensive player with five assists and one goal in three games. . . . T.C. Williams has recorded shutouts in three wins, including a 2-0 win over No. 8 South Lakes and a 3-0 decision over No. 9 Mount Vernon. . . . Tuscarora has the look of a potentially explosive squad this spring, having already scored 14 goals in four games — including a 6-0 blowout of Champe on March 15, aided by a hat-trick from sophomore midfielder Sergio Resendiz.
1. Oakton (3-0)
2. Lake Braddock (2-0)
3. Forest Park (2-0)
4. T.C. Williams (3-0)
5. Osbourn Park (1-1-1)
6. Langley (2-0)
7. Tuscarora (3-0-1)
8. South Lakes (3-1)
9. Mount Vernon (0-1)
10. Herndon (3-1-2)