Undefeated International High School-Langley Park Boys Soccer Excelling Both On and Off the Field
The boys soccer program at International High School-Langley Park may only be in its second season, but it's already extremely successful.
Last year the Prince George's County School went 8-3 in the regular season before topping McDonough and Fairmont Heights to reach the MPSSAA 1A North regional final. In the final, the Phoenix lost to Patterson Mill to bring their season to a close.
"My oldest boys were tenth graders, and there's a big difference in terms of physicality when you have a team of ninth and tenth graders going up against a team of eleventh and twelfth graders," head coach Daniel Sass said. "My only goal last year was to create a foundation on which we could build a program, as opposed to merely a team, and we definitely accomplished that."
IHSLP's success has carried over to this season as the Phoenix currently hold a 10-0 record.
The team is still a relatively young one with no seniors on the team, but don't mistake IHSLP's youth for inexperience. About half of the team plays soccer competitively outside of school, and more than half have played with Sass as their coach for two or more years.
IHSLP isn't a very physically imposing team, so the group tries to keep the ball on the ground. The Phoenix have tons of speed at every position, making them a difficult group to keep up with.
The team's greatest strength is probably its depth though. Sass says each position on the team has chipped in with a goal this season, which is something few other teams can claim.
"There's no drop off from my starting 11 to the bench," Sass said. "In fact, my starting central midfielder from last year, Carlos Zelaya, now comes off the bench, and he has totally embraced this role. To have his level of experience and physicality coming off the bench is incredible."
IHSLP's trio of junior captains have also been sensational this season. Yaya Diabagate has netted six times and recorded five assists, while Francisco Ramos Medrano has scored five goals. Rounding out the group is junior goalie Antonio Paz Cruz, a player Sass described as the complete package from a skill perspective, that has also proven to be a natural leader.
The team's three man backline comprised of Steve Cruz Rivas, Adrian Mubiru and Kevin Perez has also worked well. Javan Aching has made tremendous strides from his freshman year, scoring six goals and chipping in five assists. Freshman Jonathan Alvarado has also proven to be a good new addition with five goals and seven assists.
The play of the Phoenix, as well as the other teams within IHSLP's athletics program, has also helped promote school spirit and camaraderie at the young school. IHSLP is a school comprised of recently arrived immigrant and refugee youth. The school's aim is to provide its students with opportunities that're focused on their unique set of needs academically, as well as away from the classroom.
Athletics have played a massive part in the school's early days, with over 50-percent of the school's population participating in at least one sport.
"They're effectively learning a sport while practicing team-building skills and growing as English speakers," Sass said. "Our athletic director, Christine Gilliard, has been an incredible advocate for our students to make sure they have the same opportunities as other students in PGCPS."
Looking ahead, the Phoenix hope the wins keep on coming with the state playoffs starting soon. As the stakes get higher though, don't expect the group to approach soccer any differently.
"They're students first, and many of them hold adult-like responsibilities outside of school. In that sense, soccer is their only outlet during the week to relax, be free, and have fun. Our practices and games reflect that tone," Sass said. "And of course, if it all leads to a county championship or state title in November, that would be pretty awesome."
|October 13th, 2017||By: Wick Eisenberg|