After nine years spent transforming Centreville into a girls’ soccer powerhouse, winning two Northern Region titles, five Concorde District crowns and making four Virginia AAA state tournament appearances in the process, only one job could pry longtime head coach Warren Williams away from the Wildcats.
With the departure of Sharon Andrulot, who occupied the same position at W.T. Woodson, that one job became available this past off-season. So Williams left Centreville and moved to the community where his family resides, a lifelong dream only recently realized.
“It was a quality-of-life thing because I had nice kids over at Centreville and the athletic director [Jimmy Sanabria] was great to me,” said Williams, who had a 117-46-10 record at Centreville. “But this opportunity doesn’t come along very often. This was my dream job. I’ve always wanted to coach where my kids went to high school.”
The coach’s children, Owen, 8, and Allison, 5, are still a few years away from suiting up for W.T. Woodson. Still, Williams has relished the opportunity to spend more time with them. On the day of a game, he often stops home between his day job as a history teacher at the high school and when he must arrive at the soccer field for pre-game warmups.
Not only that, since his days as an undergraduate at Penn State University, Williams has always wanted to develop that community-type atmosphere, where the local coach is intertwined with those he coaches.
He remembers living in the suburbs of Pittsburgh after his time spent as a Nittany Lion, driving along Route 51 and thinking about the Mecca-like gatherings that occurred every Friday night of the fall.
“It’s Friday night football games. It’s 5,000 people at a football game,” Williams said. “The parents played there, the kids play there and the grandparents played there. It’s a community. And I think as an educator, that’s one of the things that you try to build. One of the ways I think you try to do that is to live where you teach. So that’s always been what I’ve wanted to do.”
<b>WHEREAS MOST</b> coaches who make such a sudden switch settle by inheriting a team with plenty of shortcomings, Williams has taken over a group with very few of them. The Cavaliers went 12-2-2 last spring and lost to eventual state champion Robinson in the Northern Region quarterfinals.
After scoring 18 goals a season ago, senior forward Lindsey Ottavio returns ready to surpass that output. Through the first five games of the season -- four wins and a tie -- Ottavio had five goals. While Ottavio has taken charge in the absence of Niki Mercier, who’ll miss the season with a knee injury, Kaitlin Brooks and Elizabeth Gaski have added three goals apiece.
The Cavaliers (4-0-1) have also shown an ability to stop goals from occurring. Behind the backfield tandem of Mary Beth Barham and Danielle King, as well as the efforts of Brianna Johnson, W.T. Woodson hasn’t allowed a goal in more than two weeks, with the last one coming in a 2-1 win over Westfield on March 16.
“I had three years with Sharon [Andrulot], but our attitudes have kind of changed,” said Barham, whose team played Centreville Wednesday night after this edition went to press. “The way that we approach games and different stuff like that, I think that’s changed in a positive way.”
During an eight-year span from 1997-2004, W.T. Woodson reached the Virginia AAA state title game four times and won each year. Since then, the Cavaliers haven’t been back. But with Williams, whose Wildcats lost to W.T. Woodson in the 2004 game, a new level of optimism has emerged.
“W.T. Woodson used to go to states but haven’t for a while,” said junior midfielder Courtney Owen. “Now, I feel like we have a really good chance if we work hard. I feel like we all wanted to re-start that tradition and get going to states more often than we have in the past.”