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DeMatha’s soccer team ready to start another winning streak


DeMatha lost standout Chris Odoi-Atsem, right, to graduation, but the Stags will be strong again behind Arion Sobers-Assue, Julian Dove and Mac Burke. (Dayna Smith/for the Washington Post)

DeMatha soccer coach Dafydd Evans broached a sensitive subject when he addressed his team prior to Tuesday’s season opener against Maret. He brought up last season’s loss in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament championship game, when the Stags lost in penalty kicks to bitter rival Gonzaga. It was the team’s first loss in nearly three years, spanning 62 games. And it was a wound that was rarely reopened during the offseason.

“To be honest we haven’t talked about it too much. We talked about it a little bit before the game today, you know, we’ve had long, long streaks before,” Evans said. “We still think last year was a huge success. The pressure, we hadn’t lost in two years. It hurt that night [of the loss to Gonzaga], but overall the work was outstanding from the guys.”

But Evans went to that place, in large part, to remind his team of expectations, real or not. And his players promptly took the field with their eye on a new streak. The Stags were dominant in a 3-0 win over the Frogs at Allen Pond Field in Bowie. DeMatha (1-0) rarely allowed Maret into its backfield, and displayed midseason form offensively, using two goals from Arion Sobers-Assue.

And after Sobers-Assue’s second goal, DeMatha continued to control the pace — so much so that Maret’s coaching staff were simply pleading with their players to focus on patience and discipline with the ball late in the second half.

Evans is tasked with replacing first team All-Mets in Chris Odoi-Atsem (Maryland) and Wes Suggs (Virginia), but he returns a talented cast of players that make the Stags both a heavyweight in the WCAC and in the nation.

The Stags return important senior leaders in midfielder Julian Dove and goalkeeper Mac Burke (a second-team All-Met last fall) and Sobers-Assue, who scored nine goals a year ago, is expected to be one of the most dangerous forwards in the area.

“There’s nothing like high school soccer. First game of the season, we’re just trying to get the team back together and get us on pace for the [WCAC] championship game,” Sobers-Assue said. “Last year was probably the worst feeling, which motivates us more this year. We disappointed ourselves because we knew we had the chance to win the championship, and we didn’t. So this year we want to get that back.

The WCAC will again test DeMatha. Defending champions Gonzaga has been hit hard by graduation, including All-Met Player of the Year Nicko Corriveau (Virginia) and former Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year Ian Harkes (Wake Forest). But Coach Scott Waller might have two of the better midfielders in the conference in Philip Littleton and Avery Beddard, as well as a dangerous forward to watch in Grant Johnson. Paul VI, Good Counsel and O’Connell are expected to contend, and St. Mary’s Ryken should be improved with first team all-league returners Colin Travis and Luke Blevins.

Among other privates, defending DCSAA state champs St. Albans, Landon, Sidwell Friends and St. Stephens/St. Agnes are all expected to contend in the Interstate Athletic Conference, while Potomac School is another private school team to watch. The Quakers upset Saint James Wednesday, 1-0.

DeMatha plays a difficult nonconference schedule the next few weeks, including games against Loyola Blakefield and Wootton, the defending 4A Maryland state champions who graduated first team All-Mets Matt Hoy and Sam Summerlin. The Patriots are expected to be a favorite in Montgomery County again this fall (among returners is Jared Nozick, who had nine goals and nine assists in 2012), Walter Johnson (has new coach in former Sherwood skipper Hector Morales) and Whitman, who returns the talented Vegas Kastberg to the team after the senior opted to play with the D.C. United academy last fall.

The Post Top 10

Gonzaga opened the year strong Tuesday, taking down Loyola Blakefield 4-2 in Baltimore behind goals from Philip Littleton, Ned Tracy and Devin Hannon. . . . Marriotts Ridge, which has won four consecutive Maryland 2A state titles, will open its season Saturday against Whitman. . . . St. Albans graduated talent from last year’s 18-win team, including goalkeeper Luke Duffy, but do return a core of seniors led by talented midfielder Nick Notaro. . . . Sidwell Friends opened its season with a thrilling 4-3 win over Wilson Tuesday. . . . St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes striker Graham Guidry, a second team All-Met selection a year ago, scored a goal to help the Saints salvage a 2-2 tie in its opener against St. Christopher last weekend.

1. DeMatha (16-1-1)

2. Gonzaga (18-1-1)

3. Marriotts Ridge (17-0)

4. Reservoir (13-6)

5. St. Albans (18-2-1)

6. Sidwell Friends (11-5-6)

7. Wootton (17-1-1)

8. Paul VI (12-6)

9. Severna Park (18-2)

10. St. Stephens/St. Agnes (16-5-1)

Bubble: Potomac School (5-11-2), Broadneck (6-7-2), Walter Johnson (14-2)

(Final records from 2012.)

Roman Stubbs covers the University of Maryland athletics for The Washington Post.
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