Four consecutive National District championships and three straight Northern Region semifinal appearances have placed a collective target on the back of the Yorktown boys soccer program. The Patriots know when they take the field they’re likely to get an opponent’s best effort.
While lofty expectations lead to pressure, they also create a sense of pride. On March 24 against Stuart, after failing to capitalize on several scoring chances in regulation, Yorktown found a way to maintain its winning ways.
Senior midfielder Marcus Curaca’s goal in the first overtime period was the difference as the Patriots won their district opener, 1-0, on a cold night at Greenbrier Stadium.
"It’s our first district game and we knew the importance of it," Curaca said. "I think we’re a better team than they are and we rose to the occasion. … It’s kind of disappointing that it went into overtime, but I think that the better team won."
The victory improved Yorktown’s record to 2-0-1. The Patriots defeated Oakton, 4-3, and tied West Springfield, 2-2. The game against Stuart was a rematch of last season’s district championship game, won by Yorktown on an Andrew Panknen golden goal in overtime.
Success "always puts pressure on the kids — returning kids and the new kids," Yorktown head coach David Wood said. "All the returning kids and myself, we let [the newcomers] know there’s a target and there’s that pressure on them to do well and to win. … It makes them think and mentally get into the game and focus in on what they have to do, especially in these district games."
Panknen was Yorktown’s leading goal scorer last season and returns as a 5-foot-11, 190-pound offensive force.
"He’s a force up there and he does really well," Wood said. "He scores lots of our goals. He’s gotten better every year."
Panknen is committed to George Mason and said he has "high hopes" for this year’s team.
Senior midfielder Christopher Dunn is a team captain and will play at William and Mary. Senior midfielder Alex Mitchell is also a team captain.
Yorktown will travel to face Washington-Lee at 7 p.m. on March 30.
"It’s four … straight years that we’ve won the district, so that’s kind of expected," Curaca said. "We’ve got stopped in the regional semifinals, so we’re looking to go past that this year."