Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Two Area Players Named to U.S. Team
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, July 16, 2007; E02

Duke-bound Jasmine Thomas (Oakton) and Virginia's Monica Wright (Forest Park) have been selected to the USA Basketball under-19 women's world championship team. Wright, the 2006 All-Met Player of the Year and Thomas, who earned the same honor this past winter, each earned one of 12 roster spots. They were selected from a pool of 36 players.

The team will travel to the Canary Islands for exhibition games against Australia, Brazil and Spain before competing at the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women July 26 through Aug. 5 in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Thomas, a 5-foot-9 guard, finished her high school career as Virginia's second all-time leading scorer (2,598 points) and was the McDonald's all-American game's most valuable player. After leading Forest Park to a state title in 2006, Wright, a 5-11 guard, averaged 15.1 points per game for Virginia and was named ACC rookie of the year.

"It's all about getting the gold and representing your country the best that you can."

"It's all about getting the gold and representing your country the best that you can," Thomas said. "I want to get the whole feel of representing America. Everywhere we go, we are going to be America, so our attitudes, the way we carry ourselves, the way we talk to other people is all going to affect what people think of America."

Former Riverdale Baptist All-Met forward Demauria Liles (Gulf Coast Community College) was one of 16 finalists invited to tryouts in Washington this week, but did not make the final roster.
USA women's teams have posted a 32-10 record in the tournament and last won the gold medal in 2005. Team USA will compete in Group B with China, Ivory Coast and Lithuania.

Honored For a Win Off the Field

Cancer Survivor, 15, Lauded by Athletes
By B.J. Koubaroulis

Special to The Washington Post

Sunday, July 8, 2007; LZ08

For 15-year-old Ramon Hilliard, attending sporting events has always been about watching his favorite athletes accomplish amazing feats. This weekend, 46 hall of fame athletes are applauding him for beating leukemia for the second time.

Hilliard, who has battled acute lymphoblastic lymphoma for the past two years, is being honored as the Patient Hero at the 17th annual Bobby Mitchell Hall of Fame Golf Classic. The three-day event culminates in a round of golf today at Lansdowne Resort in which hall of fame athletes play to help raise funds for research.

Since Mitchell -- a former Redskin -- started the event nearly two decades ago, it has attracted NFL Hall of Famers such as former Redskins Sonny Jurgensen and Charley Taylor and NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson. The event has raised more than $5 million.

"To see Ramon realize how well he can play a sport and to find out [he has] leukemia, that has got to be devastating," said Mitchell, who was inducted into the NFL's Hall of Fame in 1983 after a career that included four selections to the Pro Bowl. "When I first met him, that smile and the intelligence jumped out at you, and it just blew me away."

Less than two months after making the junior varsity football team as a freshman at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, the two-way starter learned in November 2005 that he had the disease.

"It's mostly like just trying to get back to what you had," Hilliard said of his battle with cancer. "Especially for someone who had so much, and you see it taken away."

After his diagnosis, Hilliard could no longer play football, and he has since been home-schooled.
"When I first went into the hospital, I couldn't tell [the doctors] what this pain felt like because I had never been sick," he said. "I couldn't tell them if it was a shocking pain or a pinch pain because I had never felt any of those things, even playing football."

He entered treatment immediately and was in remission by December 2005, but the following January, doctors told Hilliard's mother, Denae, that he needed a bone marrow transplant.
"Ramon stopped me from smoking years ago. . . . He was about 8 years old. He said, 'Mommy, I don't want you to get cancer,' so I quit," Denae said. "To have to tell him that he had it -- I just couldn't."

Denae organized about 25 bone marrow drives over the last year. A donor was found, and the transplant was completed last July. While recovering, Hilliard lost his sense of taste for two months and, after leaving the hospital, was isolated for 100 days at home.

He is currently in remission and has regular injections to boost his immune system. He will go back to Northwestern as a junior in the fall and has been practicing with the football team this summer with the expectation of returning to the field.

"I want this to be over," Hilliard said. "You want it to be done, and you never want to remember it, but you have to because in some ways you feel proud that you fought this thing and made it through."
According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the overall five-year survival rate has more than tripled in the past 40 years for patients with leukemia; however, leukemia still kills more people younger than 20 than any other cancer.

"The percentage rate of success has gone way beyond my expectations," said Robertson, who was enshrined in the NBA's Hall of Fame in 1979 after he retired as the league's all-time leader in career assists and free throws made. "You see people [with] this disease that know right from the start that there is an opportunity to recover. Years ago, that wasn't true."

Rookie Helps Oakton Move On
By B.J. Koubaroulis

Special to The Washington Post

Thursday, May 24, 2007; E03

Oakton's Ashley Abed picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time this spring. Last night she was instrumental in helping the Cougars limit visiting Robinson to its second-lowest scoring output this season en route to a 15-7 victory in the Northern Region final.

It was the first region championship for 10th-ranked Oakton since 1998 and the first time the Cougars won the title in four consecutive final appearances. It was also the sixth region final appearance for Oakton in eight years.

"If it didn't go this way," Oakton Coach Jean Counts said, "I would think the world was off its axis. It just feels like the right thing."

Oakton (15-1), which led 9-2 at halftime, enters next week's state tournament as the region's top seed. Both Oakton and Robinson (11-6) will be at home for the first round.

Robinson's top offensive player, senior midfielder Marnie Commins, scored six goals in the Rams' semifinal win over Chantilly Monday. Abed helped hold Commins to three goals and consistently interrupted the Rams' offensive flow. Abed also caused three turnovers.

"I wanted it so bad. Before the game I said 'I'm not losing again,' " said Abed, who as a star forward on the basketball team lost to Edison in overtime, 60-59, in the region final this season.
"She didn't even know basic rules," Counts said of Abed, who became a starter on the lacrosse team two games into the season. "She is so humble to come out here and do this. . . . This is an experienced program."

Oakton senior midfielder Hillary Freund scored three goals and added three assists. Junior midfielder Ashley Kimener scored three goals, and Victoria Cable scored four goals. Seven Cougars scored, and nine of their goals were assisted.

Robinson Boys Win

Senior attackman Danny Fritz had a front-row seat when his teammate, all-American Matt Kugler, etched his name into Robinson high school lacrosse lore as he scored five goals in a state championship victory last season.

Fritz carved his own spot last night by scoring five goals to lift No. 10 Robinson to a 15-8 victory over Westfield in the Northern Region final at Oakton.

The win gave Robinson (15-2) its eighth region title and earned the defending state champions the No. 1 seed in next week's state tournament. It was the third time this season Robinson defeated Westfield (13-5).

Fritz "missed the playoffs last year because he broke his collarbone," Robinson Coach Justin Fitzgerald said. "He worked hard in the offseason, and right before tryouts [this season], he had to have pins put in his pinkie finger."

Fritz scored three goals in the second quarter to help the Rams outscore the Bulldogs 7-1 in the period. He led a Robinson attack that outshot Westfield 29-24 and won the faceoff battle, 14-13.
"I wouldn't expect myself from a couple of months ago being injured to be where I am today," Fritz said.

"It's great to have him back," said Kugler, who recorded four assists. "To see him come back from the injury and play well tonight, I couldn't be happier for him."

Lybert's Power Play Is Woodbridge's Gain
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, May 29, 2007; E08

Woodbridge Coach Scott Kerns has told freshman forward Kristen Lybert he wants her to be more selfish. He has seen what happens when she takes over a game.

Last night in Woodbridge, Lybert asserted herself and everyone in attendance witnessed the results -- her 25th goal and eighth assist, leading the top-seeded Vikings to a 3-0 win in a Virginia AAA Northwestern Region quarterfinal.

"We are trying to get her to be more selfish and take people on because that's what she's good at," Kerns said. "She is really worried about being seen as selfish by her teammates and I think that's something we have to break her from."

Lybert broke the habit long enough to pelt a shot off the legs of Osbourn senior goalkeeper Maddy Morrow and then buried the loose ball in the back right corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead in the game's second minute.

"I try to be as unpredictable as possible because I've seen players that are predictable and everybody can defend them the same way, so I try to vary it as much as possible," said Lybert, who finished the goal with her left foot after taking the first shot with her right.

Woodbridge sophomore forward Rihana Williams finished Lybert's left-footed cross near the left post to give the Vikings a 2-0 lead in the 42nd minute. Williams gave Woodbridge a 3-0 lead in the 63rd minute when she redirected senior defender Emily Hughes's 20-yard shot.
Woodbridge improved to 17-0-1; Osbourn's season ended at 12-4-3.

The Woodbridge defense, which has allowed just nine goals, recorded its 11th shutout. The Vikings have not allowed a goal in six games since a 3-2 overtime victory over Forest Park on May 1. Since then, Woodbridge has outscored opponents 26-0, won the AAA Cardinal District tournament title and earned its first Northwestern Region tournament berth since 2003.
"They are always solid. They never let us down," said senior midfielder Emily Danchak of the defense. "I feel like, no matter what, they will be behind us."

Woodbridge's smothering defense limited Osbourn to just two shots on goal in the first half and two in the second.

Woodbridge 3, Osbourn 1 Up Next: Woodbridge advanced to host Mountain View, a 4-0 winner over E.C. Glass, in tomorrow's region semifinals. Short-handed: Osbourn was without senior forward Brittany Johnson, its leading scorer. Johnson (11 goals, two assists) suffered a right knee injury in the Eagles' win over Battlefield in the Cedar Run district tournament final.

Hickey Leads a Huntingtown Three-Peat

Maryland-Bound Standout Stars On the Mound and at the Plate: No. 2 Huntingtown 4, Northeast 0
By B.J. Koubaroulis

Special to The Washington Post

Sunday, May 27, 2007; SM08

As Kerry Hickey's home run sailed out of the University of Maryland's softball complex Friday, it cleared the "Maryland" painted on the stadium's 10-foot fence in left field. It was fitting the Huntingtown senior's game-breaking shot soared over the word just as the All-Met has towered above the state's softball scene this season.

The University of Maryland-bound Hickey struck out 12 batters in a one-hitter that pushed second-ranked Huntingtown to the 4-0 win over Northeast in the Maryland 3A title game. Hickey improved her career record to 53-4 and helped the Hurricanes (22-1) to their third consecutive 3A title.

"She's going to be here next year, and she's got her head coach [Laura Watten] watching her, and she takes it into her own hands. I mean that was a shot. She crushed the ball," Huntingtown Coach Mike Johnson said. "This kid is something else. She can do things that no one else can do."
That's what Hickey has done at Huntingtown for the last three years, becoming what Johnson called "the best pitcher on the East Coast."

Hickey struck out three batters to close the bottom of the fourth inning with runners on second and third base to preserve a two-year, 48-game streak in which she has not allowed an earned run.

"I'd lie if I said it wasn't nerve-racking because the girl [on third] was very quick," Hickey said. "Any mistake could have changed the outcome of the game. I just had to stay focused and calm."
Over the last two seasons, Hickey has struck out 645 batters in 235 innings. She struck out 326 this season en route to a 22-1 record -- a long way from her days as a backup at Calvert High School.

"We've been open for three years and three state titles," said Hickey, who was part of Huntingtown's first softball team. "To be a part of that team is awesome."
Hickey was also went 2 for 3 with an RBI, and her home run sparked the Hurricanes' sixth-inning rally that pushed eight batters to the plate and resulted in four hits and all four of the team's runs.

Sophomore Becca Morgan hit a shot off the center field fence that drove in Jennifer Price and Jess Warner to give the Hurricanes the 4-0 lead.

Kugler Has a Passing Interest
Robinson Senior Keys State Title Win With Four Assists
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 3, 2007; E10

A prolific goal scorer during his high school lacrosse career, Robinson's Matt Kugler proved last night during an 11-3 state final victory over Westfield that he's a capable passer as well.
The senior All-Met attackman added four assists to his three goals to lift the 10th-ranked Rams to their second straight state championship. Kugler also completed a season in which he had more assists (56) than goals (51).

He has more than 300 points in his career.
"I really have nothing to prove. This team has nothing to prove," Kugler said. "My reason to pass this year is because I knew the slide was going to come faster, and they were going to double-team. If there is an opportunity to take it to the goal, I'll take it to the goal. You have to take what the defense gives you."

Robinson (18-2) finished having beaten every team it faced from Virginia. Last night was the fourth time Robinson beat Westfield (15-6) this season.

"Kugler is probably the best player in the region," Westfield Coach Gary Malm said. "We tried many things in four games to do something, and it doesn't work. I'm just happy he's graduating."
In four meetings, Robinson outscored Westfield 46-28. Three of the games decided the district, region and state titles.

"To beat them four times in a row is something pretty unheard of in sports," said Kugler, who had five goals in last season's 11-6 victory over Oakton in the state championship game. "I think that just says how great this team is."

After Westfield senior midfielder David Slover scored the opening goal on a 12-yard shot, Kugler scored to tie the game with 7 minutes 10 seconds left in the first half. The goal ignited a 5-0 run for Robinson before Slover scored again to cut the lead to 5-2 at halftime. Robinson outscored Westfield 3-0 in the third quarter.

Senior midfielder Sean O'Sullivan's goal with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter ended a 19-minute scoring drought for Westfield and cut the lead to 8-3.

Robinson won the faceoff battle 9-8 and outshot the Bulldogs 30-28. Robinson's Danny Fritz scored three goals and Tyler Zinck scored twice to finish the season with 41 goals.
"I'm just another member of Robinson, and I'm glad I got to play on the Robinson state championship team, and that's all that matters to me," said Kugler.

No. 10 Robinson 11, Westfield 3 Three-pronged Offense: Adam Dahms (40 goals), Sean O'Sullivan (38 goals) and Kenny Talbot (31 goals) scored 109 of Westfield's 203 goals this season (53-percent). They also combined for 49 assists. Brick Wall: Robinson senior goalkeeper Ryan Kleman had 10 saves and ended the season with a .680 save percentage.

For Bruins, A Date to Remember
By B.J. Koubaroulis

Special to The Washington Post

Sunday, June 10, 2007; E09

NEWPORT NEWS, Va., June 9 -- Lake Braddock senior Kat Weiler isn't sure how to ask Coach Liz Pike to pay up. She does know that she and her teammates are owed, however, after the fourth-ranked Bruins defeated Cox, 2-1, in overtime in the Virginia AAA girls' soccer championship on Saturday.

The night before, Weiler and eight other seniors skipped Lake Braddock's prom, instead staying in Newport News to rest and prepare for a chance to win back-to-back state titles.
"Our coach said that she would get us a limo and another prom," said Weiler, who scored the opening goal and assisted on Lauren Fleming's game-winner. "I don't know if that was a bribe, but this is much more fun than prom."

Lake Braddock (17-3-2) became the first repeat AAA girls' soccer state champion since W.T. Woodson won in 1997 and 1998.

Weiler, an All-Met who will play for Pittsburgh next year, was sidelined for five games this season and the entire first half of Saturday's game with a nagging injury to her right quadriceps. But she broke open a scoreless game in the 45th minute with a 35-yard, left-footed volley that barely cleared Cox goalkeeper Kristin Carden's leap.

Cox (18-6-1) got the game-tying goal from Finley Hines less than two minutes later.
Lake Braddock found a way past the 6-foot-1, Virginia Tech-bound Carden (12 saves) three minutes into overtime.

"Kat Weiler took it down to the goal line and I called for the slot-back [pass]," Fleming said. "She slotted it back to me, and I took the shot and it went in."

The Bruins outshot Cox -- a team that had 14 shutouts this season -- 19-7.
"We knew they were going to have a very strong keeper, and the only way to get a strong keeper flustered is to have shots coming, whether they get on goal or not," Pike said. "The girls kept on pounding at the goal."

The Bruins were making their fourth state final appearance in five years -- they beat Cox last year, lost to Kellam in 2005 and beat Clover Hill in 2003.

"It's definitely well-deserved, and [the players] proved themselves," Pike said. "There was no way they were going to miss their prom and not win the championship."

No. 4 Lake Braddock 2, Cox 1 (OT) Big, Bad, Bruins: In the 23-year history of the Virginia AAA girls' soccer tournament, Lake Braddock has the most final appearances (eight) and is tied with West Springfield for titles with five. Containing Chloe: Lake Braddock's Rachel Nichols held Cox's Chloe Russell, who has a team-high 20 goals, scoreless.

A Welcome Homecoming for New Falls Church Coach, Staff
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, June 21, 2007; VA29

T.C. Papageorge is sitting on a bench in front of Falls Church High School, his alma mater. At 24, he is only a few years removed from his days roaming the halls here as a student and athlete. Now, he returns, charged with the task of rebuilding the basketball program.

The team is coming off a 4-18 season, has won just 13 games the previous three seasons and hasn't had a winning season since 2003. Papageorge is asked how he intends to turn things around. He leans in and chooses his words carefully.

"Program continuity," Papageorge said, is one of his favorite terms. "We are going to have the freshman, [junior varsity] and varsity programs all running a consistent scheme, and everyone is going to communicate. When the seniors have to run with the juniors, we don't want them to be strangers."

Behind him, longtime friend and new Jaguars Assistant Coach Ryan Healy nods and offers a look that appears to say, "Just you wait and see. . . ."

Papageorge is the fourth coach in eight years at Falls Church. He was hired to replace Tony Harris, who left for the same position at Stuart.

Papageorge and Healy coached the freshman team at Fairfax the past two seasons. Their new challenges are difficult to understand "if you haven't gone to Falls Church," Papageorge said.
Papageorge, who owns and operates a painting franchise, and Healy, a special education teacher at Oakton, were starters on Falls Church's football, baseball, basketball and golf teams together before they graduated in 2001.

Papageorge's brother, 22-year-old Steven, was a member of the Jaguars' only district championship basketball team in 2003. He played basketball at Catholic University for the past four years and is expected to join the staff as a varsity assistant.

"It's almost like the stars aligned. [Steven] graduated, Tony Harris left for Stuart and the door was open, and we had to run through it," Papageorge said. "There isn't a place we'd rather be. The three of us together, doing what we love to do, affecting young kids, playing basketball -- a game that we love -- having them compete at a higher level and caring about their personal success."

Papageorge comes to Falls Church with little coaching experience but with plenty of enthusiasm and energy.

"The reason I'm really proud of him is because if he would have hung on and waited, and coached with me for a few years and been a varsity assistant for a few years, he could have landed a big job, but he is really embracing this challenge," said Fairfax Coach P.J. Kelly, who coached at Falls Church from 1994 through 1999. "This is not going to be easy, and he is aware of that."

Papageorge compares the challenges presented at Falls Church with those he faced in his first few years as a business owner. While pursuing his bachelor's degree in marketing at George Mason University, he purchased a painting franchise. He took the company from $50,000 in revenue in its first year to more than $1 million this past year.

"It took so much legwork to get out in the streets knocking on doors. There were so many different things I had to do to build the momentum," said Papageorge, who is the franchise's nationwide leader in sales. "Every year since, it's gotten easier and easier, and it's grown. . . . So I can see a direct comparison to that. We are going to have to work our tails off."

The work has started for the trio. They have reinstated the Falls Church High School summer basketball camp, which had been out of commission for six years. They have entered the Jaguars into two summer leagues and secured a spot in the Pohanka Chantilly Classic Annual Holiday Basketball Tournament in December. Even with school out of session, 22 players turned out last week to meet Papageorge and express interest in playing.

"We are going to bring players back from Steven's district championship team, and they are going to be working [the players] out for their very first workout," Papageorge said. "Other coaches who would have taken this position wouldn't have those resources. We know the community, we know the people, and we know what the students experience walking through these halls."