New Fairfax High girls’ soccer coach Gino Leon, going into the current season, thoroughly believed he would enjoy coaching Northern Region high school girls’ soccer. He was excited when he was named the Rebels’ new coach this past season and could hardly wait for the spring season’s opening practices to start up.
Now, a month or so into the spring campaign, Leon, who has coached travel team soccer over the years and is currently an assistant coach of the Bishop Ireton High girls’ program during the fall season, is quite pleased by the progress he has seen from his players. He said the Rebels’ senior leadership has been outstanding and that the girls are working hard to improve their games and cohesiveness as a team.
"I’m having a blast and am enjoying this so much," he said.
Fairfax improved its early season record to 2-1-1 earlier this week on Monday night, March 28 when it defeated Falls Church High, 4-0, in a non-district home game. Meg Murphy, a senior forward, scored two of her team’s goals in the win.
"We started a little sloppy," said Leon, of the win over the Jaguars. "We were up 1-0 at halftime but came out strong in the second half and scored three more goals."
Fairfax, which went 7-10-1 last year under former coach Michelle Dierkes, has received good play across the board, from both its starters and back-up players. Leon has taught a possession-style of play which the Rebels have taken well to.
"It’s coming around," he said. "Last year they played more kick and run. I’ve emphasized ball control and possession. At times, we’ve looked brilliant."
Murphy, who is set to play college soccer on scholarship at George Washington University next year, gives Fairfax a strong frontline player up top. A second year starter for the Rebels, Murphy is a former player at Bishop O’Connell High in Arlington. She transferred to Fairfax following her sophomore year at the Catholic school and has been a nice addition to Fairfax soccer over the past year-plus.
"Her ball skills are strong," said Leon. "She can dribble against anyone, has the size and can protect the ball well. And she can blister the ball with either foot. She’s a fun player to watch."
Another senior who had a fine game against Falls Church was goalie Samantha Cormode, who will be playing at Virginia Tech next year.
"She had a super night," said Leon, of his goalie’s play on Monday. "She’s very experienced. She has a great work ethic during practice and her focus during a game is admirable. She’s so into the game."
In the midfield, senior Melody Salmeron has played solid soccer during her second season as a Fairfax starter.
"Her ball distribution is great and her dribbling skills are very good," said the coach.
Also playing quality ball in the midfield is junior Sally Dillinger, who played outstanding against Falls Church.
Other team members who have played stellar soccer thus far include sophomore center defender Allison Garris, junior forward Stephanie Spitz, junior midfielder Maddy Thompson, and sophomore outside defensive back Shannon Cosgrove.
Of Garris, Leon said, "she has great field vision and her defensive skills are great."
Spitz, at forward, netted a scorching, 20-yard goal against Falls Church. The Rebels received good play off the bench from several players, including sophomore midfielder Barb Rajendra, who scored a goal in the win.
"She really gave us some great minutes," said Leon.
<b>COACH LEON</b> has emphasized good physical conditioning and playing fundamentally sound soccer to his players. He believes the result of good conditioning and learning the building blocks of the game will result in wins.
"It’s all about developing good players," he said.
And, of course, good team chemistry also helps.
"The team unity here is great," he said. "The girls get along with each other and are playing with and for each other. Our seniors are molding [their underclassmen teammates] for next year. I’m really happy with the results I’m seeing."
Fairfax opened the season on March 14 with a 1-0 win at Chantilly High. The Chargers’ goal in that contest came from Cosgrove, who along with playing in the back is also a strong player in the midfield when called upon.
Following the season-opener win over the Chargers, Fairfax lost a home game to local rival W.T. Woodson on March 16, then played Liberty District opponent and guest Madison to a 2-2 tie on March 22 before, most recently, defeating Falls Church.
This week, the Rebels were scheduled to play a pair of district road games at Marshall on Wednesday, March 30 and at Langley on Friday night, April 1 at 7 p.m.