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DUMFRIES JOHN PAUL THE GREAT
Wolves kick off the year with gusto
Players embrace the challenge of playing at the varsity level.
Pope John Paul the Great High School in Dumfries entered the varsity arena when the school opened for its second year. The athletes knew that not having seniors yet would be a challenge, but they were ready to play hard and claim victory. Then came the reality of some harsh losses and the inevitable question: “Were they really ready to play varsity?”
Since the beginning of the season, the team’s record has improved. The players — many on both the junior varsity and varsity teams — have pulled together in the past two weeks to defeat teams that pummeled them earlier in the season.
Sophomore goal keeper Tom O’Hare said that “every game is a fresh start,” and he pointed to the unity of the defense as the key to their victories. “When we play hard, we’ve got the game,” he said.
Varsity co-captain Alex Jarboe, a junior center midfielder, agreed with O’Hare that the key to the team’s victories is defense.
“In the last two games we’ve been playing at our top ability,” Jarboe said. Past losses taught them to play even when they were behind, and that if the team "had played the whole game the way we did at the end, we would have had a chance.”
Sophomore Evan Conner plays sweeper and is also varsity co-captain. He thinks the team has increased in skill this year. Some of the players are new to soccer this year, while others who have played before joined the team in August. He, too, credits the latest victories to the ability of the defense to come together.
“If we can mark our players and prevent their coming around, and don’t fall apart, we can win,” said Conner.
Junior forward Ryan Bradley is new to soccer and said he looks to the experienced players to teach him. “I don’t have bad habits,” he laughed, describing his addition to the team. The other players agreed. “He makes us laugh,” added Jarboe.
Sophomore Mark Dean plays right defense and is new to the school, though he has played soccer since he was 4. Compared to the team he played on last year, he said that the Wolves are a “much better team — more skill, more team effort and communication.” His goal for the year is to win the rest of the games.
John Gonzalez, a sophomore, keeps goal and said the team is better than last year because they are playing as a team. His personal goals for the season are to have one shut out and to get to the state tournament.
A number of the junior varsity players are also key on the varsity team. Junior varsity captain and midfielder Patrick Krauss, a junior, said he enjoys playing on both teams: “It’s good to get the extra playing time.” He also thinks the team can make it to the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state championship with a winning record.
Sophomore Gavin Grubbs plays right back defense and is also on both the junior varsity and varsity teams. He says the junior varsity team is more fun, while the varsity team is more competitive.
Captains Conner and Jarboe hope to see the team continue its steady improvement under their coaches, Henry La Montagne, Nicholas Fonte and Jay Jesse.
“We should make it to the state tournament at the end of the year — if we maintain this level of play,” Jarboe said.