Young team, lofty goals for SSSAS boys’ soccer

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The St. Stephens & St. Agnes Saints in a soccer game last fall. (Photo Credit: Missy Schrott)
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By Duncan Agnew | dagnew@alextimes.com

Last fall, St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes boys’ varsity soccer was the only Alexandria high school team to appear in the Virginia Independent School Athletic Association State Tournament. Despite a heartbreaking loss on penalty kicks to The Potomac School in the first round, the Saints believe they are ready for another playoff run in 2018.

Still, with a new head coach brought on in July, SSSAS has plenty of work left to do before the season kicks off. New hire Josh McCave is tasked with organizing the Saints in the coming weeks. While he’s still getting to know the school and the players, he already has plenty of confidence in the team.

“At this point, I have some familiarity with the school just based on research, based on a couple [of] visits to the school,” McCave said. “I met with a couple of the players to kind of gain their perspective, but I would say familiarity overall is pretty low, but the expectations are high.”

Although McCave is new to SSSAS, he’s been coaching Alexandria club teams for several years. He grew up in Maryland and played at St. John’s College High School in D.C. Before coaching in Alexandria, he worked with teams at Dematha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. Tommy Park, the executive director of the Alexandria Soccer Association and McCave’s former club teammate, convinced him to start coaching youth teams in Alexandria.

“[Park] reached out to me a couple years ago and said ‘Hey, do you want to coach?’ and I took him up on the opportunity,” McCave said.

McCave said he’s excited to begin a new project at SSSAS, where he’ll take over a young team mostly comprised of sophomores. Despite most of the roster’s lack of experience, he said he plans to rely on senior leaders and returning varsity players to mentor newcomers on the pitch.

Senior Tyler Smith and sophomore Finlay Weiss will be two key impact players for the Saints this season, according to McCave. Additionally, the team will depend on production from young starters who bring lots of club experience to the table.

“We have a couple [of] guys who made it to nationals and won a national championship with their clubs, so I’m hoping that they bring that success into the team, as well,” McCave said.

McCave predicted Landon will be the Saints’ most formidable foe in the IAC competition, although he recognized that “it’s hard to really gauge fully,” especially with up-and-coming teams at Georgetown Prep and St. Albans.

The new SSSAS head coach sees this season as an opportunity to instill a winning mindset and a focused work ethic in each player. If the Saints can accomplish that goal, everything else will fall into place, McCave said.

“My first goal, obviously being new, is to kind of indoctrinate [the players] into a culture of kind of that brotherhood mentality to work hard for one another,” McCave said. “And knowing that we have had success, especially the last five years, it’s just either repeating that or exceeding it.”

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