The team posed with the trophy in the middle, a mess of red jerseys and greedy hands.
“Everybody get a hand on it!” one player yelled.
“Don’t drop it!” another said.
The soccer program at The Heights has a proud history of talented teams, but none of them had a season end like this. None of its players had held a conference trophy in their arms.
So on Sunday afternoon at Catholic University, following a commanding, 3-0 win over Paul VI, every Cavaliers player was focused on the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference hardware.
“In the past, it would be over after our senior game. Now we’ve earned this, and it feels so great,” senior defender Mac Malloy said.
The championship was the conclusion of the previously independent all-boys school’s first year in the WCAC, in which the newcomers from Potomac took the league by storm. They shut out DeMatha. They blew by Bishop McNamara and Bishop Ireton. They beat defending champ Gonzaga twice, once in a 5-1 rout and then again on penalty kicks in the conference semifinals.
And on Sunday, The Heights (15-0-2) dominated possession from the opening whistle as Paul VI (11-7) tried to avoid a goal-fest like the 8-1 loss the Cavaliers handed it last month. Despite the tight defense, senior Gonzalo Percovich found an opening in the 32nd minute and got The Heights on the board.
Senior Daniel Diaz-Bonilla made it 2-0 shortly after halftime, and an own goal by Paul VI followed. From there, the Cavaliers were safe behind an experienced back line and goalkeeper Rye McMillen, who had given up multiple goals only once this season.
Asked amid the celebration whether he could have guessed that his first year in the WCAC would go like this, Coach Colin Gleason laughed.
“I believed in these guys from the start,” he said. “I was really optimistic. But if you had told me about this 10 years ago, I would’ve said, ‘No way.’ ”
After Mia Bookhard’s second goal, the one from well outside the box that sealed a 3-2 WCAC championship win over St. John’s, the Good Counsel junior jumped up and down, tucking her legs in and then pounding them hard into the turf like a toddler throwing a tantrum.
But this was a fit of joy for the forward, whose brace helped the Falcons complete a dominant year with a conference championship at Catholic University.
“We worked really hard for this,” Bookhard said. “We put all our effort into it, and we stayed together as a team. We played together because we love each other.”
Defending champion St. John’s (9-4-1) got on the board first when senior Gabriella Nastasi converted in the 20th minute. Freshman Trinity Dorsey responded for the Falcons minutes later, and the game went to halftime tied.
Bookhard spent much of the season as a defender, but she was moved up top a few games ago. She scored in every game since, and Sunday she gave the Falcons (17-1-3) the lead in the 48th minute. She got a through ball and touched it past the roaming goalkeeper into the box. From there, all she had to do was win a race with her defender. She did, and the tie was broken.
“Our goal was just to pressure their defense, making good runs and attacking on the outside, because that’s where our strengths are,” Bookhard said.
Meghan O’Donovan added a goal for the Cadets in the final minutes, but it was too late.
“This was a big team effort. Not to knock anyone in the past, but we played so much as a team,” said Good Counsel Coach Jim Bruno, who has won 12 conference championships with the Falcons. “The leadership, the character of the team — I’ll remember that.”