Bishop O’Connell Coach Alberto Starace says this is going to be an “interesting” year in WCAC girls’ soccer — and he should know. This fall marks Starace’s 28th season as coach of the Knights, one of the league’s traditional powers along with Good Counsel. But in those three decades at O’Connell’s helm, Starace said he’s watched the rest of the league slowly catch up.
“What’s changed is that everybody has almost the same talent. Ireton has talent, St. John’s has good talent, Holy Cross is very good,” Starace said. “I think across the board we’re deeper in the WCAC than we’ve ever been. You always knew the top two teams were going to knock everybody out, and everyone was fighting for a spot in the top five. But now, at any moment, if you have a bad game they’ll knock you off.”
No. 1 Good Counsel and its handful of Division I-bound players, is once again the league’s consensus favorite. But Starace says his squad, too, has a target on its back. The Knights started 2-0, grabbing a 2-1 win over then-No.3 River Hill in their opener despite missing a few key players, and beat Flint Hill 3-0 Tuesday.
“I think we still have some things to work out. We didn’t play our best [against Flint Hill], but we still won. So that’s a positive,” Starace. “We had four of our starters missing Saturday and other players stepped up into their spots.”
Those type of interchangeable role players are the type that Starace says defines his 2013 squad, which may not showcase one or two high profile stars, but relies instead on a versatile roster of players who do their jobs at the level necessary to keep the team in a position to win.
“I think the dynamic of the team right now is that you don’t have one player you have to really, really watch for, we have different players step up,” Starace said. “We don’t have one dynamic-type player. We have really good players that play well, but if at any time they have problems, they have someone that can come in and step up for them.
Developing his team’s dynamic and teaching the “kids to rely on each other” are key goals for Starace as his team heads to Nashville for a two-game trip this week. The Knights will take on Franklin and Siegel High Schools in Tennessee Thursday and Friday.
“It’s good for team bonding. The kids learn more about each other, so that’s what really we’re doing it for,” said Starace of the trip, one he used to take the Knights on every year, but hadn’t for over 10 years before scheduling it again for 2013. “It’s good competition, it gets kids used to playing teams from outside the area, and we make it into a bonding trip.”
O’Connell begins WCAC play Sept. 24 at St. John’s, and faces off against Good Counsel on Oct. 22. The Falcons and 26th-year Coach Jim Bruno beat the Knights 3-1 in the regular season last year, and 2-0 in the playoffs.
After tying Good Counsel last week, Spalding impressed with a 4-2 win over 2012 4A state champs South River. . . . Churchill makes its 2013 top-10 debut after taking down Georgetown Visitation 2-1 over the weekend as part of a three-game in three day run during which the Bulldogs outscored opponents 11-2. . . . Ireton debuts at No. 8 after tying then-No. 5 BCC and now-No. 10 St. John’s. . . . After a down year last season, St. John’s is showing signs of a bounceback after tying Ireton and Churchill and dominating Sidwell Friends and Wilson. . . . River Hill went undefeated in 2012, but has lost its first two games (Good Counsel and Bishop O’Connell) of 2013.
1. Good Counsel (1-0-2) LW:1
2. Spalding (2-0-1) LW: 4
3. O’Connell (2-0) LW: 7
4. South River (2-1) LW: 2
5. Bethesda-Chevy Chase (2-0-1) LW: 5
6. Churchill (2-0-1) LW: NR
7. River Hill (0-2) LW: 3
8. Bishop Ireton (1-1-2) LW: NR
9. Walter Johnson (2-0) LW: NR
10. St. John’s (2-1-2) LW: NR
Dropped out: No. 6 National Cathedral (1-1), No. 8 Holy Cross (0-1), No. 9 Whitman (0-0-1), No. 10 Sidwell Friends (0-2)
Bubble: Whitman (0-0-1), Quince Orchard (0-0-1), Holy Cross (1-0-0)
(Records through Tuesday)