When stoppage time began, the players on Espicopal’s sideline were on their feet, inching toward the lines of the pitch. Every second that ticked down, the players’ anxiety grew. They jumped up and down, shook out their hands, pedaled their feet. At the sound of the referee’s whistle, the players ran to the middle of the field to join the rest of the Maroon in celebration.
After an up-and-down season, host Episcopal won the Interstate Athletic Conference boys’ soccer championship with a 2-0 win over St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes . The regular season was marked by impressive wins followed by baffling losing skids. In the tournament, Episcopal found consistency at the right time.
“I think we thought we could do it, but to actually do it is something else,” junior defender Josh Szymczak said. “We peaked at the right time and it really paid off.”
Episcopal (9-7-4) scored early when Szymczak knocked in a cross from junior midfielder Ashley Sibisi in the sixth minute off the game’s first corner kick. The lead put the Maroon on the defensive for the rest of the game, as the Saints (4-14-1) created opportunities with eight corner kicks, but were limited to just three shots on goal.
Junior forward Gaetan Roux scored the insurance goal for the Maroon, intercepting a pass intended for the goalkeeper and kicking it in the direction of the goal. With the goalkeeper out of position, Roux kept running as the ball glided parallel to the empty net. He accelerated and knocked in the ball near the post before it went wide of the goal, then he kept running to a crowd of students standing along the field. By the time Roux got back to the bench, he was out of breath.
“It could only change the game, so I tried as hard as I could to get that goal,” Roux said.
The Maroon lost the majority of their games last season, and players still remember the negativity that surrounded that team. With every losing streak Episcopal went through, senior captains would remind the team of how negativity was a poison last year.
“They continued to believe, so they continued to work in practice and get a little bit better,” Episcopal Coach Rick Wilcox said. “It got to a point where in the last couple of weeks, we’ve been winning games that we would have found ways to lose earlier in the season.”
The Maroon begin a new tournament Friday playing at O’Connell in the first round of the VISAA Division I playoffs. It’ll be the fourth game in five days for Episcopal, but exhaustion was the last thing on the players’ mind on Thursday afternoon. They celebrated with classmates, posed for a team picture and repeatedly asked an all-important question.
“When do we get our championship T-shirts?”
The Wildebeests won the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference championship with a 1-0 win over Washington International School at the Germantown Soccer Complex. Sandy Spring scored in the first 20 minutes of the game on a free kick just outside of the box, Zurum Okereke knocking the goal in.
Sandy Spring had an emotional journey to the final, knocking off St. Anselm’s in the semifinals after being down 3-1 in the final five minutes of the game. The Wildebeests had a less dramatic outcome in the final, scoring sooner rather than later against Washington International on Thursday.
“It was just a great win,” Coach Jeff Rohrman said. “We were fotunate to get one on a set piece.”