Paul VI Catholic High School’s boy’s varsity soccer team claimed its first Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) State Championship Friday night, Nov. 12 at Sports Backers Stadium in Richmond.
The Panthers beat Collegiate School, a team that eliminated them in 2009 on penalties. Collegiate had upset the No. 2 and No. 3 overall seeds in this year's state tournament. The fourth-seeded Panthers, playing their fifth playoff game in five days, took the game to the Cougars from the beginning.
In the 29th minute, freshman Oscar Gonzalez opened the scoring with a shot from the edge of the box that went through the Cougar goalkeeper's hands.
Collegiate responded a minute later heading in from close range to equalize. Sophomore Tyler Phillips played a ball wide to Man of the Match Kennedy O'Shea who took on three defenders and ripped a shot over the Collegiate keeper from 25 yards out to put the Panthers back ahead in the 33rd minute.
On the stroke of half, the Cougars equalized again when Timmy Albright tapped in the rebound of a save by Panther keeper Richie Golinowski.
Boosted by their loud band of fans, the Panthers took control of the game in the second half. PVI defenders CJ Loving, Matt Madigan, Raul Marinello and Coby Emery played a near flawless 40 minutes.
With their midfielders, led by Connor Messerschmidt and Tyler Phillips, controlling the center of the park, the Panthers controlled possession and kept constant pressure on Collegiate who struggled to find any scoring opportunities.
In the 51st minute, the Panthers would stamp their name on the State Championship Trophy. Senior Ozzie McKenzie sent a cross into the box where Alex Gosnell beat the defender and headed the game winner over the outstretched arms of the keeper.
At 3-2, the Panthers would not look back. With their defenders shutting down the few Cougar forays into the final third, they pressed to increase their lead. After the Cougar's best chance of the half went off the crossbar, the Panthers were rewarded in injury time. Junior forward and leading goal-scorer David Skipper battled through several defenders to chip in his 17th goal of the year, sealing the Panthers first State Championship by a final score of 4-2.
“I am just so proud of our guys,” said third year Panther Head Coach Matt Leiva. “When we saw the playoff schedule and realized that to win, we would need five nights of our best performances, we knew it was a huge mountain to climb. This senior class has talked for three years about winning a State Championship and I am so thrilled that they were able to achieve their goal. It is an incredible feeling to end the season with a win on such a big stage.”