The end of the season resulted in two significant stories for the Potomac School Panthers.
The boys soccer team finished as the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season champions with a 9-2-1 record. And, 22-year head coach Marcelo Valencia officially announced his retirement from high-school coaching at campaign’s end.
Valencia has built the Potomac School team into a consistent winner and perennial conference-and state-tourney contender. His teams have won multiple MAC titles and annually earn berths into the Virginia private-school Division I state tournaments, finishing second one season (2016) and this fall losing in the semifinals as the No. 2 seed.
The Panthers finished 12-5-2 overall this fall, and earned a No. 2 ranking in the final Division I state poll.
“We have had a great run here as a coaching staff and we have built a good program that can compete with any high-school team on any level from any area,” Valencia said. “But it’s time for me to move on and pursue other things.”
Valencia grew up in Northern Virginia, graduating from (then) J.E.B. Stuart High School in 1991. He led the Raiders boys soccer to a region championship that year when he was regarded as one of the top high-school players in the country.
As for Valencia’s Potomac School team this fall, the Panthers clinched the MAC regular-season title with a 2-0 victory over host and second-place Sidwell Friends on Oct. 24. Later, the Panthers lost to Sidwell, 5-2, in the championship game of the MAC tourney.
“Sidwell has two really good goal-scorers and they got ahead of us and found the net a lot in that win, making it hard for us to come back,” Valencia said.
In the subsequent state tournament, the Panthers were 1-1. After a first-round bye, they blanked No. 10-seed St. Anne’s-Belfield, 3-0, in the second round, then lost to third-seed St. Christopher’s in a semifinal overtime shootout.
“We had a strong core group of players back this season,” Valencia said. “The big thing was we were able to get different players to step up and score goals.”
With double-figure goals and assists, Patrick Ritter was the top scorer. Ben Scharf was another top scorer. Others with multiple goals were Ege Kirgis, Chase Edwards, Zach London, Lloyd Marshall, Colin Cordell, Eli Butler, J.P. Sosnitsky, Luke Ritter and Lawson Watt.
In the state-tourney victory over Belfield, Kirgis, Butler and Patrick Ritter had goals and Scharf had an assist. Butler scored in the state semifinal with Charlie Cillizza assisting.
Scharf and London had the goals in the 2-0 win over Sidwell, with Patrick Ritter adding an assist.
William Lyall and Wyatt Pence were the goalies. The Panthers had seven shutouts.
“We were consistent on offense and defense throughout the season,” Valencia said.
NOTE: One of Potomac School’s losses this season was 1-0 to Collegiate of Richmond in an Oct. 6 match. That was the only time the Panthers were shut out this fall. Collegiate won the Division I state championships.