As a goalkeeper, Oliver Steinglass values communication. Ever since he first lined up with Washington International School boys’ soccer teammates Matteo Schlitz and Lorenzo Amorosino in middle school, he’s done his best to understand his center backs.
“I don’t speak Italian,” Steinglass said. “They’re always yelling at each other in Italian, so I started to pick some up and ask them about key phrases. It’s another way that we all connect.”
With soccer’s official language of defense masking its next move, Washington International has allowed just six goals this season. Along with right back Giorgio Zampaglione, Schlitz and Amorosino anchor a defense that is proficient in more than just protecting its goal.
“We laugh at him. You can tell he’s an American speaking Italian, but it’s not like the other team can tell that,” Schlitz said. “Oliver instructs us and we organize ourselves in Italian. Sometimes we’ll say one thing in English and then the opposite in Italian just to confuse the strikers.”
Schlitz, who is committed to play at NYU, was born in Washington to an Italian mother. Amorosino moved to the area from Rome in sixth grade. The pair’s infatuation with Italian soccer quickly sparked a close friendship that has been played out on the field.
“He jokes that I need to come to NYU with him because neither one of us are any good without the other,” Amorosino said. “Before one of us makes a mistake, the other knows it’s going to happen. Clearly we had high expectations for our senior season.”
With a class size smaller than 70 students, the 15 seniors on Washington International (14-1-1) make up almost half of those eligible to play from their class. Last year, the Red Devils fell to Sandy Spring Friends in the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference final and lost to Gonzaga in the semifinals of the D.C. State Athletic Association playoffs. Having already won the PVAC regular season, Washington International is aiming to finish on top in both tournaments to cap the best season in school history.
“There’s nobody on this team that doesn’t realize the enormous opportunity that we have – a chance to do something no other WIS sports team has done,” Schlitz said. “We know we’re good enough to win every competition we’re in. We all desperately want to reach our potential.”
“I was like ‘really, me?’ I’m not the fastest guy in the world, and I’d played midfield my whole life, but after the first game I sort of got the hang of it,” Koziolek said.
South River (11-1-2, 9-0-1 Anne Arundel) fell 1-0 to Spalding in the first game of the season. Since, the Seahawks have been unbeaten while notching 11 shutouts and conceding just four goals. Koziolek, who used to savor the joy of scoring goals, has learned to take pride and satisfaction in denying the opposition. The Seahawks had a shutout streak of seven games before allowing their only goal to Anne Arundel opposition in a 6-1 win over Southern last week.
“At first, I was worried that I wouldn’t do well playing center back. I miss scoring goals and all that, so it’s a little different, but we’re winning games,” Koziolek said. “I take pride in our shutout streak. A shutout is a personal goal — even when we’re up 5-0, I still want to stay in and keep the shutout.”
Blake junior goalkeeper Billy Bridegum wasted no time adjusting to his new six-yard box since transferring from Good Counsel before this school year. Bridegum, whose twin sister Lindsay is a standout midfielder on the girls’ team, has posted four shutouts and only allowed more than one goal on two occasions this season. Blake (11-1) employs an aggressive formation with just three defenders, and the Tigers are desperate for a trip back to the Maryland 4A state final, where they fell to Severna Park in 2013.
“I’d never really played with just three in the back before, but coach has trusted me to lead the defense, and I think I’ve been able to do that,” Bridegum said. “It’s been a really easy transition. When we win like we have been, everybody is happy, and we’re of course excited for what we can do in the playoffs.”
DeMatha won its fourth-straight game with a 2-1 victory over Good Counsel Tuesday. . . . Huntingtown continued to rip through Southern Maryland with a 3-0 win over Northern. . . . Walter Johnson blanked Wootton, 2-0. . . . Mount Hebron beat Wilde Lake, 2-0. . . . River Hill beat Wilde Lake and Marriotts Ridge by a combined score of 9-0. . . . Gonzaga beat Paul VI and McNamara to extend its win streak to six games. . . . Blair beat Sherwood, 2-0. . . . St. Albans avenged its only loss with a 2-1 win over Landon. . . . Meade has won four-straight game by the score of 1-0.
1. DeMatha (7-2-1) Last week: 1
2. Huntingtown (13-0) LW: 2
3. Walter Johnson (11-1) LW: 3
4. Mount Hebron (11-2) LW: 4
5. River Hill (11-2) LW: 5
6. Gonzaga (9-3-2) LW:6
7. Blair (12-1) LW: 7
8. South River (11-1-2) LW: NR
9. St. Albans (9-1-1) LW: 9
10. Meade (12-1) LW: 10
Dropped out: Centennial (8-3-1) LW: 8
Records through Tuesday.