O'Connell vs. Potomac School soccer

The Potomac School Panthers and Bishop O'Connell Knights played in this year's finals of the Northern Virginia private-school girls state soccer tournament. (Photo by Dave Facinoli)

The unique four-team Northern Virginia Invitational girls state soccer tournament for Division I private high-school teams began in 2017 and recently completed its fifth tournament this fall. The pandemic prevented a 2020 event.

The competition has become quite popular with some six different teams participating over those five seasons. The Potomac School Panthers, Bishop O’Connell Knights and Paul VI Catholic Panthers have earned state berths all five seasons. Another local team that has participated, but not this fall, are the Flint Hill Huskies.

There have been four different champs, with O’Connell winning the state this season and last, each time over Potomac School in the title matches. Potomac School won the 2019 crown and has finished second the other four seasons. Flint Hill won the second title and Paul VI the first.

The competition was created to give the independent Northern Virginia teams some type of state tournament. Other private-school teams throughout the rest of the state hold their season during the spring, which includes a season-ending Division I state tourney. Northern Virginia teams obviously are left out of that event. Now they have their own.

The fall state tournament wasn’t all that big of a deal at first, maybe kind of an afterthought. It takes place following post-season conference tourneys, in which all of those Northern Virginia teams participate.

But now, in just the five short years, the state tourney has quickly become a big want and has grown popular.

“This is something a team definitely wants to win, and now we have two state soccer trophies to put in our trophy case and be proud of,” longtime O’Connell coach Alberto Starace said after this fall’s state final.

With such popularity, maybe it’s time to expand the state-tourney field to six or eight teams.

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