Time and again this season, Osbourn Coach Brandon Calandra has seen his team respond to adversity with confidence. In a tight game, the Eagles always seem to remember why and how they have won so many matches this year. They turn it on. They get it done.
“These guys kill me every time with it,” Calandra said with a laugh. “It’s like they need something to awaken them and they flip the switch. … But ultimately it’s about them keeping their composure, and that’s what they did tonight.”
On Thursday night in Manassas, the Eagles scored with 10 minutes remaining to pull out a gutsy win under perilous circumstances, topping Woodbridge, 2-1, in the Virginia 6 Region B quarterfinals. With the win, the Eagles are now 20-0 and one victory away from punching their ticket to the Virginia state tournament.
If they do earn that spot, it will be a return trip. Last spring, Osbourn announced itself with an undefeated regular season (but with four draws) and an impressive playoff run. After capturing the program’s first region title since 1988, Osbourn fell to Landstown on penalty kicks in the state quarterfinals.
Part of the objective entering this season was to keep the momentum of that breakout campaign alive, albeit with a different roster. The team returned a fair amount of talent from last year’s group, but Calandra knows every team is different. He said he rarely discusses the successes of last season with his players.
On Thursday night, they began play in a new bracket by showing some heart. After Cooper Noseworthy was injured in the first half, the Eagles had to fend off a feisty Woodbridge team that equalized in the 63rd minute.
“At halftime we talked about just playing with your heart,” senior forward Noel Sotelo said. “We knew Cooper wasn’t coming back, and we wanted to show we could adjust.”
It was Sotelo, one of the top forwards in Prince William County this spring, who had tallied the opening goal in the 20th minute.
In Noseworthy’s absence, Sotelo took on a larger leadership role and helped orchestrate the game-winner. Dropping back to take possession closer to midfield, he found junior Joseph Adebiyi down the right side. Adebiyi eventually crossed it to the middle, where junior Ahmed Chirinos was waiting.
“We had created a lot of chances to that point, so I felt some pressure to finish the one I had,” Chirinos said.
Noseworthy, a dynamic two-way midfielder, has been at the center of this Osbourn soccer renaissance and stands as one of the most important players in Northern Virginia this spring. He started the postseason on an absolute tear, scoring seven goals across Osbourn’s two district tournament victories.
But on Thursday, he went down late in the first half with a rolled ankle. At halftime, as his team discussed how they could best maintain its slim lead, Noseworthy lay helpless on the trainer’s table with his right ankle wrapped in ice. At the end of the game, he rode through the handshake line on a golf cart. Calandra said it was unclear whether the senior would be able to play next week.
“We’ve always known it has to be a next-man-up mentality, and I think these guys are ready for whatever,” Calandra said.
Osbourn will face Forest Park, which topped Colonial Forge on Thursday, in Wednesday’s region semifinal.
“I told the guys before [Thursday’s] game that it doesn’t have to be pretty,” Calandra said. “Postseason play often is not pretty. It just comes down to who wants to fight for it. And so far, we have.”