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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School

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  • 05/26/16--05:53: May 26, 2016
  • There will be a mandatory Global Studies wrap- up meeting /party next Wednesday, June 1 directly after school in the library. We will have a great discussion, and fun wrap-up party to celebrate your accomplishments this year. Please let Ms. Webb know if you are unable to attend.

    The National English Honor Society thanks all who donated children's books for the Inner-City-Inner Child organization. Yesterday, the officers delivered over 200 picture books to the directors of the organization who were very grateful for our generous donation. The books will be delivered to economically challenged communities in Washington DC and to inner city libraries, some of which have no children's books at all on their shelves.The NEHS looks forward to making this book drive an annual event!

    Join Father Thompson for a weekend filled with faith and fun at the Franciscan University of Stuebenville Youth Conference on July 15th. Great music, great speakers, and of course, a special encounter with the Lord.

    It is the trip you have always dreamed of... Join a group of 2017 Seniors during spring break next year to "La Bellezza Eterna, The Eternal Beauty" in an epic journey in search of the timeless beauty of Italy led by Fr. Benetti with a special guest appearance by Pope Francis! Spots are limited. Contact Father Benetti for more details.

    Open Gym for Volleyball has been cancelled for Friday, May 27th. The next Open Gym will be Friday, June 3rd 3pm - 5pm.

    As you clean out your lockers, please place any usable books, notebooks, binders, pens, pencils, backpacks, pencil cases, locker shelves, etc.... that you do not want or need in the marked boxes in the hallways or give to your Advisory teacher for Medical Missionaries and Interact Club to recycle to 2 schools in Haiti, a school in Southwest VA, and here in the area If there is paper in the marble notebooks, volunteers will tear those out and place labels over any names before passing on to needy students.

    Any student who signed up to usher at graduation, there will be a 10 minute meeting TODAY after school in the activities office. All those who plan to usher must attend.

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  • 06/06/16--07:31: Used Book Sale Information
  • The online reservation system is now available for scheduling times for dropping off books (June 10-11). One week before the July 16 Used Book and Uniform Sale, the system will be open for scheduling times for shopping that event.

    In addition, the list of discontinued books for 2016-2017 has been posted.

    Visit the PTO's Used Book and Uniform Sale page of the school's website at for complete details.

    Questions? Please contact

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    Bishop O'Connell High School held its 56th commencement exercise at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, June 2. Rev. Gregory Thompson, presented diplomas to the 261 members of the class of 2016.

    Included in that number were 30 legacies, that is, graduates with a parent who is an O'Connell alum. There were also 15 graduates who received a certificate along with their diploma to indicate the equivalent of a ninth semester of study as part of the Global Studies program.

    Head of School Joseph E. Vorbach III, a 1983 graduate himself, welcomed the students, families and honored guest to this celebration. He asked the soon-to-be graduates to not rush their mind through this day: "Absorb the details--the depth of the love expressed in the hugs of loved ones, the words of pride expressed by your parents and others who have helped you grow, the admiration of the faculty for your accomplishments, the moment you receive your diploma, the time with classmates outside the Shrine when we conclude."

    Marissa Luna, the class salutatorian, compared the past four years to a fairy tale that brought 261 different stories together into one O'Connell family. She reflected on the elements of their story: raising $500,000 to help find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis, a pilgrimage to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia, a Kairos retreat and much more. In the end, she shared a quote from Albert Einstein: "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." Marissa is headed to Stanford University in the fall.

    Alexandra Rodriguez, the class valedictorian opened her address with a quote from Maya Angelou: "People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel."

    "Maya Angelou was right in saying that feelings are unforgettable," Alexandra, who is also heading to Stanford University, added. "Although we may not remember every word, act, or encounter from our time here at O'Connell, we will always maintain the impression our education, teachers, friends, families and faith have left on us during our time in high school."

    Sister Bernadette McManigal, B.V.M., superintendent of school for the Diocese of Arlington, provided the commencement address. She reminded the soon-to-be graduates that today is a special day for their parents and teachers to celebrate what has been accomplished and what comes next. She gave the class of 2016 their last high school assignment, asking them three questions to ponder: What did you do well? Where did you struggle? What do you remember?

    God Bless the Class of 2016!


    Honors and awards for the class of 2016

    Colleges and universities where the class of 2016 is enrolling this fall

    Graduation coverage in the Arlington Sun Gazette

    Diego Garcia '16 highlighted in the Arlington Catholic Herald

    Photos from the Baccalaureate Mass and Breakfast

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    2016 Valedictorian wins 2nd place in national oration contest.

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    The school year is almost here! This week we were happy to welcome the following new classroom teachers to Bishop O'Connell High School:

    Carroll photo

    Margaret Carroll
    Ms. Carroll comes to O'Connell with a degree from Mount St. Mary's University in Theology, with an emphasis on youth ministry. She is a graduate of Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, and has missionary, camp counseling and youth ministry experience.

    Esisito photo

    Allison Espisito
    Expanded Services
    Ms. Espisito is a former peer mentor in the Options Program at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax. She holds a master's degree in special education from George Mason University and has teaching experience in the Fairfax County public school system. "My main goal is to support my students in all areas to allow them to become successful adults with bright futures once they graduate high school."

    Gennaro photo

    John Gennaro
    Mr. Gennaro brings his background in medical research scientist and technical manager to the math classroom. He holds an M.S. in medical biophysics and computing from the University of Utah College of Medicine.

    Juarez photo

    Laura Juarez
    Mrs. Juarez is a bilingual English/Spanish speaker with a degree in industrial engineering from Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico and a foreign language teaching certificate from the University of Virginia. She has been teaching Spanish at St. Joseph in Herndon for more than ten years, and is also active in local and international service programs.

    Kirschbaum photo

    Jennifer Kirschbaum
    Mrs. Kirschbaum studied French and English at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and holds a master's degree from Indiana University. Previously working in international technical writing and communications, she has recently completed a career switching program and has been serving as a French classroom substitute in the Arlington County public school system.

    McDermott photo

    Kathleen McDermott
    Mrs. McDermott is a recent graduate of the University of Mary Washington with a degree in English and a minor in German. She has taught in Stafford County English classes and substituted in Loudoun County Public Schools. She also served as a public speaking coach and musical choreographer at Potomac Falls High School and a youth group volunteer at Our Lady of Hope in Potomac Falls, Va.

    McGowan photo

    Christine McGowan
    Mrs. McGowan holds a B.S. in biology with a minor in chemistry from Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J. She previously served as the science department head for a new prep school in North Carolina, where she taught biology, astronomy and physical science, and facilitated the credit recovery program for at-risk students. Ms. McGowan is also the head coach for the Knights rowing team.

    Shirey photo

    James Shirey '07
    Social Studies
    Mr. Shirey returns to his alma mater to teach social studies. Mr. Shirey is also a talent musician who holds a B.A. in government from Harvard University. He has experience as a classroom teacher across several disciplines, including social studies and music.

    Silm photoGreg Silm
    Mr. Silm has been teaching high school math in Ohio and Arizona. A graduate of Hillsdale College in Michigan, he holds a degree in mathematics with a minor in physical education. Mr. Silm is pitching in outside the classroom, serving as an assistant coach for the Knights football program.

    Swaim photo

    Colleen Swaim
    Mrs. Swaim is a recent transplant to the Washington area. For the past 11 years she has been teaching English, theology and speech in Catholic high schools in Kentucky. She also served as a member of the Covington Diocesan Youth Commission, planning and implementing youth ministry events and education. She has published several books for teens, including Your College Faith: Own It and Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints. Mrs. Swaim holds a B.A. in English from Catholic University and an M.Ed. from Xavier University.

    Tuite photo

    Dr. Kenneth Tuite
    Latin/Social Studies
    Dr. Tuite is a former adjunct faculty member in the classics department at the University of Maryland, College Park. He holds a B.A. in history from the University of California at Berkeley, an M.A. in ancient history from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a Ph.D. in classics from the University of Texas at Austin.

    Whittaker photo

    John Whittaker
    Social Studies
    Mr. Whittaker holds a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in theology from the University of Notre Dame. For the past two years he has been teaching and mentoring at a Catholic high school and an alternative high school for at-risk students in South Bend, Ind. Mr. Whittaker has a passion for Catholic education and the formation of the hearts and minds of young people, and has enriched his background with academic travel to Rome, India and Israel.

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    Mother Teresa Plaque

    Pope Francis will declare Blessed Teresa of Calcutta a saint at the Vatican on Sunday, Sep. 4.

    Did you know?

    On June 1, 1982, just before the end of the school year, Bishop O'Connell High School hosted a very special guest speaker. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, on a trip to Washington, D.C. to address Congress, stopped by our school to speak to our young people.

    Those in attendance remembered that she did not talk about honors received or about her work as founder of a religious order. She talked about Jesus and how He became poor for our sake and how serving the poor allows us to serve Him. She explained that through prayer and service to others, we too will have the joy of loving Jesus.

    Father Mark Pilon--who was the school's chaplain at the time-- shared some photos with the school, and a commemorative plaque is now displayed near the main entrance of the school. The photo and plaque remind all who enter about this historic day in the life of Bishop O'Connell.

    The photo shows Father Pilon and the Most Reverend Thomas J. Welsh (Bishop of Arlington at the time) on stage with Mother Teresa and one of her fellow Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity.

    The plaque reads:

    Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, addressing the students of Bishop O'Connell High School, June 1, 1982:

    "Now you have received this wonderful education. Now you are standing more or less on your feet and you have to face life. Face it with the strength of prayer."

    "My prayer for you then: Let us grow in the likeness of Christ by loving one another as Jesus loves us."

    Bishop O'Connell's current Head of School, Dr. Joseph Vorbach, was a member of the class of 1983. "Most of all I remember how quiet the auditorium was as this small woman took the stage," he said. "It was as if we all knew we were in the presence of someone extraordinary."

    P.E. teacher Jim Hayes recalls the question and answer period at the end of her presentation:

    "How do you become holy?" a student asked.

    Mother Teresa responded, "How do you get a sunburn?"

    Another student asked, "How do we become like you?"

    "Find your own Calcutta," she replied.

    Pictured above: Dr. Vorbach and religion teacher Patrice Connolly hang the plaque at Bishop O'Connell. Both were at the assembly in 1982.

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  • 09/07/16--07:57: Welcome Class of 2020
  • Photos from the first days for the Class of 2020 are now posted!

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    What a difference a year makes.

    A year ago at this time, the Varsity Volleyball Team owned a 0-3 record – and were struggling in all aspects of the game. Coach Mehdi El Alaoui demonstrated tremendous resolve, recognizing that his team was much better than the early returns suggested. Despite their inexperience, he knew better days were ahead. He believed, both in himself and his players. He knew it was only a matter of time, and all would be fine.

    His patience paid off as the Knights finished strong – posting an 18-14 mark overall and advancing to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference Championship Tournament semi-finals and the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association State Tournament quarter-finals. All in all, a very nice season.

    Twelve months later, the Volleyball Team is sitting atop the WCAC standings with an unblemished 3-0 record – having knocked off perennial powers Holy Cross (3-1) and Good Counsel (3-0) en route to an impressive 4-0 start to the 2016 campaign. By WCAC standards, a couple kingpins.

    Suddenly (and to my knowledge, the first time ever), the Volleyball Team is ranked in The Washington Post Top 10 voting – 10th in last week's poll. The 2016 edition is also attracting national attention, with MaxPreps, AVCA and Prep Volleyball all inquiring about the Knights' success early on.

    And, rightfully so!

    A concern a year ago, experience and versatility are now staples of the program. With nine returning players, the Knights have a better understanding of Coach El Alaoui's expectations and what he is looking for. Since most of this contingent has played together three years now, team chemistry is also a plus. That familiarity means his team can run different systems and make in-game adjustments that few others do at the scholastic level. His players can play multiple positions, that versatility giving the Knights a tremendous advantage come game time.

    Passing is the key. They pass well, they execute. They execute, they are going to be tough to beat.

    The talent-laden team is led by a pair of senior stalwarts across the frontline, Maxine Friedman (pictured top) and Sarah Lawler (pictured right).

    Friedman is an absolute stud. Her instincts for and knowledge of the game are beyond compare, despite transitioning into a new position and a new role this fall. The transition has not been easy, but she is still making the most of it. Formerly a setter, the outside hitter has more responsibilities – most especially passing and attacking when someone sets the ball to her. Through four games, "Max" has been awesome – registering 68 kills and 18 aces. She is on the Under Armour 2016 High School Watch List, which highlights the country's top senior volleyball players. Love her game!

    Lawler is relatively new to the game, having been a gymnast before her arrival at O'Connell. Her first time touching a volleyball was at Coach El Alaoui's summer camp as an incoming freshman at DJO. She has since blossomed into one of the WCAC's top players, complementing Friedman on the frontline with her assertive kills and touch passing skills. Her off-season devotion to the sport has seen her game improve each and every year. So much so that Sarah has 52 kills with a .432 hitting percentage and 14 aces to date. Like Friedman, she's a big-time talent at the scholastic level.

    Katie Boehm and Lucie Drahozal (pictured left) have evolved into the squad's defensive specialists. The "digging duo" are very consistent performers who provide a great deal of leadership both on and off the court not to mention possessing tremendous knowledge of their sport. Their support is immense, especially for newcomers to the program.

    Sophomore Kelley Moriarty has emerged as the team's top setter, an all-important position in Coach El Alaoui's game planning game-to-game. She is a very strong setter capable of setting up her teammates from anywhere on the court. Kelley is a much-improved player from a year ago and has developed into one of the Knights' key performers, especially if the DJO girls are to fulfill their goals this fall.

    Ingrid Bayer, Alexia McCants and Nora Stechshulte are also playing big roles at the net and contributing with their blocks – truly contributing to a formidable frontline for the Knights.

    Top 10 status is just the beginning for the O'Connell volleyball program under the guidance of Coach El Alaoui. He and his girls want more, namely to still be playing when championships are on the line in the WCACs and the VISAAs come November. Participating in those title game matchups is the goal, winning 'em the dream. Those triumphs over Holy Cross and Good Counsel have only strengthened that resolve. The journey is just now beginning, but it looks so very, very promising. Enjoy the ride! Looks like it could be a good one!

    This is Tommy Orndorff, and that was The Week That Was.

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  • 09/21/16--12:35: National Merit Recognition
  • National Merit Recognition

    Congratulations to the Bishop O'Connell seniors who were recently recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

    Grace Halford (pictured front row, center) was named a Semifinalist and 11 other O'Connell students were named Commended Students based on their performance on the 2015 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

    The nationwide pool of Semifinalists represents less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. As a Semifinalist, Grace will have the opportunity to compete for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $33 million in the 62nd National Merit Scholarship Program.

    The Commended Students placed among the top five percent of the more than 1.6 million students nationwide who took the 2015 PSAT/NMSQT. This year's Commended Students from O'Connell include:

    Harold Amoss
    Luke Brinkmann
    Caroline Jones
    John Mai
    Katherine Mendell
    Gabriel Rizk
    Miranda Smith
    John Svoboda
    Agatha Tatang
    Brooke Tran
    Eleanor Vaughn

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  • 09/22/16--12:13: 2016 YES Award Winner
  • Congratulations to senior Susana Juarez Rodriguez who was recognized by the Catholic Business Network of Northern Virginia (CBN-NOVA) in a short ceremony following the Bishop's Mass of the Holy Spirit at Bishop O'Connell yesterday morning. She is one of four diocesan high school winners of the 2016 YES Award (Youth Exemplifying Service).

    Susana is a native of Monterrey, Mexico who came to the United States in 2000. In 2010, she became an American citizen but her heart carried a desire to help the impoverished in Mexico. With her sister, Cecilia, now a freshman at O'Connell, she collected supplies and monetary donations through social networking, classmates, neighbors and St. Joseph's School. They gathered over 150 pounds of school supplies, Christmas presents, and food and clothing to support over 500 children in more than 14 villages. Once all the items were collected, they packed up boxes and split up all the items depending on the amount of children in each village. With many suitcases in hand, she and her sister flew to her home city Monterrey, Mexico before taking a seven-hour bus ride with all the suitcases of supplies to distribute to the different communities. She calls the program "Diubujando sonrisas," which translates to "Drawing Smiles."

    At Bishop O'Connell, Susana is involved in the school's Unity Council, and is looking forward to playing a role in the upcoming Hispanic Heritage assembly. She is also an accomplished artist who works primarily with acrylics and oils.

    She continues to collect items for the people of Monterrey, and hopes to make a return trip again this winter.

    Pictured above - Susana and Cecilia helped distribute donated items in Mexico last year.

    Pictured below - YES Award winner is joined by her parents and CBN representatives. L to R: Rich Fanelli (CBN-NOVA President), Javier Juarez (father), Susana, Laura Rodriguez Juarez (mother), and Lucia Jason (CBN-NOVA Board Member and Founder of the YES Award).

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    Head of School Blog by Dr. Joseph Vorbach '83

    When I became a member of the faculty at the Coast Guard Academy in the summer of 1995 after completing a master's degree in international relations, I was assigned to teach a one-semester course in U.S. History. For two years, I taught this course to 80-100 cadets each semester. With my colleagues, I participated in an annual process of reviewing textbooks for this course. The textbook selection process, and the practice of preparing lessons for this intensive (one colleague referred to it as "Columbus to Clinton") 13-week course, challenged me to learn quickly and in greater depth about aspects of American history that I had no expertise in. I was very comfortable with the history of U.S. foreign relations, particularly from World War I to the present. I was less familiar with late 19th century populism and the chronology of key Civil War battles. Another challenge for me was how to do a good job presenting and causing the cadets to think critically about the history of the Civil Rights movement. Even in such a compressed course, I wanted the cadets to think critically about issues and moments like the following:

    1.The rights of African-Americans during the 31-year period between the abolishment of slavery with the adoption of the 13th Amendment in December of 1865 and the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision that upheld state segregation laws under the "separate but equal" doctrine.

    2.The rights of African-Americans during the 58-year period between the Plessy v. Ferguson decision and the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka which found that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional.

    3.The significance of President Truman signing on July 26, 1948 Executive Order 9981 desegregating the military.

    4.The life journeys of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

    5.President Johnson's speech before a joint session of Congress in the days after the assassination of President Kennedy in November of 1963 that began "All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today..." and included the lines: "First, no memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long. We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. We have talked for one hundred years or more. It is time now to write the next chapter, and to write it in the books of law..."

    By 1998, I was no longer teaching the U.S. History course, so my engagements with the cadets on this subject did not include considering the service of General Colin Powell and Dr. Condoleezza Rice as Secretaries of State or the election of President Barack Obama, all milestones that would have enriched the classroom discussion.

    As I write this, I am sitting in the waiting room at Koons Tysons Toyota watching ABC7 morning news coverage of both the opening of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture and the protests occurring Charlotte, N.C. One is aware of both how far we have come as a country and how far we have yet to go.

    As a Catholic high school administrator, I find myself thinking regularly about questions like these:

    1.How can we leverage the power of Church teaching on human dignity and the unique racial and ethnic diversity of our school community to challenge our students to be citizens who lead positive change?

    2.How, by our example and our effectiveness as educators, can we leverage the innate idealism of young people and inspire continued hope, optimism, even joy in their hearts as they imagine a better future for this nation?

    3.How, by our example, can we grow in our students a stronger appreciation of the power of prayer for confronting those challenges in life that seem to be the most intractable?

    Even as some of what confronts us in the news each day can be discouraging, we also find in the story of the opening the new museum this weekend great evidence of hope and positive change that we can draw upon to reach new heights in our nation's story.

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    Bishop O'Connell has named Alex Vergara as the new head coach of the school's wrestling program. Coach Vergara has served the Northern Virginia area as a technical instructor for a number of programs since 2010. He is an active volunteer assistant coach for the Gunston Wrestling Club located in Alexandria, VA and frequently works with wrestlers from all over the region during the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Over the course of five winter seasons, he has helped produce a total of 12 conference champions, 4 regional champions, 14 state medalists, and 2 state champions.

    Coach Vergara comes to Bishop O'Connell after completing his fourth season with the Edison Eagles (Alexandria, VA) where he worked alongside his former high school coach, Scott Racek. In just his second season with the Eagles, he was named Assistant Coach of the Year for Conference 13. Vergara left the Eagles on a high note with two Conference 13 titles, three top-10 finishes at the 5A Northern Regional tournament; and two top-10 finishes at 5A States.

    Before joining the Edison Eagles, Vergara debuted his coaching career in the 2011-12 season with the St. Stephens & St. Agnes School Saints (Alexandria, VA). He was an integral part of the program as he oversaw the technical development of each wrestler as they steadily climbed the ranks in the VISAA. In just one season, he helped lead the Saints to a 17-3 dual record, a City of Alexandria dual championship title, an IAC runner-up finish, and a 6th place team trophy finish at VIS States- the highest finish in a decade.

    Vergara competed for the Longwood University Lancers in the NCWA (National Collegiate Wrestling Association). The Lancers were members of the Mid-Atlantic Conference. He finished in 3rd, 5th, and 5th in the MAC Championships at 133 lbs between his sophomore and senior year. He completed his career as a 3x NCWA National qualifier- a program best. He is a Bishop Ireton Cardinals alumnus and was a two-time varsity starter. His accolades include two 3rd place finishes in the WCAC and a 6th place finish at VIS States.

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  • 09/12/16--15:00: Boys Crew Runs in 9-11 Race
  • On Saturday, Sep. 10, 2016, 26 O'Connell rowers, parents, coaches and supporters joined over 3,000 other participants in the 15th annual Arlington Police, Fire and Sheriff 9/11 5K race. The Knights crew team finished seventh overall among 74 open teams with a time of 22:42. Team scores were based on the average of the four fastest times. The four fastest times came from the men's varsity rowers -- Lucas Gaitan, Austin Berry, Andy Oudkirk and Harrison McBride – all posting times in the top 12 for the men's 15-19 age group. Lucas Gaitan was the top O'Connell finisher, with the fifth fastest time in his age group.

    Congratulations, and thanks for representing DJO in this important community event!

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  • 09/27/16--11:22: New Path, New Direction
  • THE WEEK THAT WAS - Sports Blog by Tommy Orndorff

    Some of the more popular blogs through the years have been Q&A sit-downs with our coaches. That noted, this week's The Week That Was is a Q&A session with first-year varsity field hockey head coach Eighmey Zeeck (pictured right).

    First, a little background on the Knights' coaching staff. Eighmey Zeeck hails from Colorado and was a four-year starter as a left midfielder at Randolph-Macon Women's College, a DIII program in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. She began coaching girls while in college at Virginia Episcopal School, where she was an assistant girls lacrosse coach. Eighmey is also the varsity girls lacrosse coach locally at JEB Stuart High School.

    Her two varsity assistants also have great collegiate experience in field hockey: Kate Savitz played DI field hockey at Central Michigan for four years and has coached at both Langley and Washington-Lee high schools. Carleen Knauf was a four-year starting goal keeper for American University. She coached for eight years at Good Counsel prior to coaching goalkeepers at O'Connell.

    Coach Zeeck also cited her awesome JV coach, Chris Thomas. He came to O'Connell from the U.S. Virgin Islands where he began his coaching career. His coaching experience in boys basketball and baseball has been a key to giving the JV program a lift. His knowledge and drive are exactly what the program needs.

    Q: Why O'Connell? Why now? What was the appeal of O'Connell?

    COACH ZEECK: After graduate school, I knew I wanted to get back into coaching and I missed field hockey. I saw that this position was available and sent my information to Mr. Wootten. He contacted me very quickly for an interview, and, after talking with him and Patrick (Demers), I knew that the O'Connell Athletic Department had the goals, mindset, drive, and vision for the field hockey program that I had too. It solidified my desire to coach at O'Connell upon hearing that not only the parents, but the athletes were craving strong coaching and a new path forward.

    Q: Talk to me about your season to date – citing any highlights, both team and individual? Team strengths? Team weaknesses?

    COACH ZEECK: We are in a rebuilding year. The coaching staff quickly realized that the girls needed to bolster their basic knowledge necessary to really succeed at this game. The girls are coachable, but we need to get them to build up their confidence in their skills so that it translates in our games. We love playing in the middle of the field, so we are working on spreading the field, and trusting that our teammates will do their jobs. This is a great group of talented girls. I know that it will click.

    Q: Who are our top players – and why are they so? Address their individual skills and abilities and, at the same time, what they bring to the team.

    COACH ZEECK: Our top players are our new goalie, Skye Hartsoe. She has never been a field hockey goalie but has the drive, enthusiasm, and spunk we need for the position. She has had some great saves already this year.

    Our entire defense needs huge credit, because they have it on lock down there. They understand our defensive system, know how to be helpful to keep the ball in the offensive end, and are absolutely fearless. We have already heard positive feedback about our defense from opposing coaching staffs.

    On offense, our standouts are Kenley Sweeney (pictured below), Jessica Seager (pictured right), and Cora Wack (pictured above) – all midfielders. They help our transition onto offense and play all over the field, intercept passes, and really help set up the plays on offense.

    Q: Big, big win over Paul VI! Talk to me specifically about that game. For the first time that I can remember since the program began five years ago, we were the aggressors – dominating the game from the beginning and keeping the pressure on a first-year Paul VI program. For sure, it was awesome to see. Give me some stats on this game, such as goal scorers, assists, saves, etc.

    COACH ZEECK: This game was a HUGE boost for us. The girls finally realized how much fun it is to play well – spreading the field, trusting your teammates, using set corner plays, etc. This game helped them realize how the game of field hockey should be played! Our offense finally clicked and trusted their ability to just take shots.

    I think the best part is that all of our goals were scored by different people: Chloe Reed, Kirsten Knauf, Jessica Seager, and Olivia Pope, with assists from Katie Bourque, Camille Seldin, and Cailey McLaughlin. We had 15 penalty corners and 24 shots on goal.

    Q: Other than being our first win of the season, what does that win mean to our program? What are your goals for this year's team? What are your long-term goals for the program?

    It is the program's first Varsity win since the 2014 season. It shows that we have the ability to win, and I hope it helps the girls build their confidence not only in their skills but in how to play as a unit. We played as a unit against Paul VI. It also helps the coaching staff show that all the hard work we are asking them to put in at practice pays off. We are officially on a new path, and there is no looking back.

    Q: What would you personally like to see written about this year's team?

    COACH ZEECK: I want it to be known that this team worked hard, they were not afraid to come into a new season, with an all-new coaching staff, and new expectations. They were ready to take a new direction and play with pride as O'Connell Knights.

    This is Tommy Orndorff, and that was The Week That Was.

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  • 09/30/16--11:48: Not Your Average Soup Drive
  • Thoughts from our head of school, Dr. Joseph Vorbach:

    Normally, our annual living rosary at the conclusion of our two week soup drive for local Catholic Charities programs is held on our athletic field. We often have a beautiful fall day, sometimes a little cool, and there is something special about the Chaplain bringing the Blessed Sacrament out to our temporary altar with the monstrance glistening in the sun. You can also sense the energy in the student body out on the field. And sometimes it rains.

    Today we prayed the rosary together in the auditorium. As much as I missed some aspects of the tradition of our living rosary out on the field, there were some things about being inside that made the experience powerful in a different way. Being closer together, 1,200 people praying together for those who need the services of Catholic Charities and this soup, for those who serve those in need in our community, for the intentions of the Bishop O'Connell community, was powerful. There was a reverence and a purposefulness to our time together that, in my judgment, reflected the attitude of the student leadership and faculty moderators who guided this soup drive. Throughout the past two weeks there have been a definite, "we are going to get this done" mentality and a healthy sense of competition to support it.

    The Student Council Executive Board had the last word when they told their peers the final count of can - 13,683! This number is several thousand above the average of the last eight years that I have been here. It is the product of a wonderfully spirited effort in the school community, led by our students. I thank you all for supporting your children and helping us do something so special as a school.


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    Global Studies speaker photo

    The Bishop O'Connell Global Studies program kicked off the new school year with special guest speaker, Farah Pandith, who shared her career experiences with a group of more than 70 students gathered in the library for the presentation.

    Ms. Pandith is a foreign policy strategist focused on countering violent extremism. Her government service includes work at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Security Council, the State Department, and most recently as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. As Special Representative to Muslim Communities in the State Department, Ms. Pandith traveled to nearly 100 countries to engage with Muslim communities and to help launch youth-focused initiatives to counter the influences of extremism.

    Global Studies students ask questions

    She shared her career path, beginning with discussions about her interests in high school that led her to pursuing studies in international affairs. She encouraged the students to find something they are excited about and to let that grow within them.

    Ms. Pandith also discussed critical leadership qualities, particularly the ability to listen and hear the voice of the "other." She feels fortunate that her work involves exactly that, as she has spent a great deal of time focused on listening to the young people in many diverse communities around the globe and "giving dignity to all voices."

    She summed up her remarks with a message that encouraged the global studies students of today "to listen, to lead and to find a way to make a difference."

    READ MORE about the Global Studies Certificate Program...

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  • 10/04/16--10:00: Blood Drive Success
  • Blood drive photo

    On Tuesday, Oct. 4, the O'Connell Health Services Club held the first of two blood drives scheduled for this school year. Members of the club, led by officers Rosie Coolidge, Ingrid Bayer and Matt Ehlers, worked beforehand to promote the event and register both teachers and students as donors. On the day of the drive, the club members were responsible for signing donors in and providing support, comfort and snacks to all those who gave blood. Before and after the event they all pitched in to set up and clean up, too.

    "This year the club was responding to an urgent request and therefore only had one week to plan this blood drive," said Alicia Doran, athletic trainer and Health Services Club moderator. "The club members rallied to the occasion and I commend them on their responsibility, leadership and willingness to help others."

    "We are extremely grateful, too, for the enthusiasm and response from the school community," she added. As a result of this one-day drive, 77 units of blood were donated through INOVA Blood Donor Services to meet critical needs in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.

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  • 10/05/16--15:28: A Visit from Bishop Burbidge
  • Bishop O'Connell High School welcomed Bishop Michael F. Burbidge for a morning visit with students just one day after he was named the successor to Bishop Paul Loverde as the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

    The Bishop joined more than 50 O'Connell students in the library for an informal talk followed by some questions and answers. He shared the story of his path to the priesthood, and ultimately to his most recent appointment here in Virginia. He also shared his joy in the experiences he has had as a teacher and a shepherd of Catholic education. A product of Catholic schools himself, Bishop Burbidge made a point to recognize his special connection to the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who have been a part of his education—from Kindergarten through his college years at Immaculata University. When asked about advice for teachers, he encouraged them to wake up each day with a grateful heart for the wonderful work they are entrusted with. "Give them truth and love," he added.

    "Bishop Burbidge was an auxiliary bishop in Philadelphia when I was a high school student at Bishop Shanahan," said O'Connell religion teacher, Ed Fitzpatrick. "He displayed the same kindness and genuine joy to be around the students today that I remember, and I am happy that he shares the same joy about Catholic education as Bishop Loverde."

    Bishop Burbidge will be installed as the Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington on Dec. 6.


    Read more about the visit in the Arlington Catholic Herald.

    Learn more about Bishop Burbidge.

    View photos from the visit below or CLICK HERE.

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  • 10/06/16--09:00: Open House - Oct. 16

  • Join us for our Open House!
    Sunday, Oct. 16, 1-4 p.m.

    Presentation at 1 p.m. in the auditorium.

    Classroom interactive demonstrations follow and run until 4 p.m.

    • Tour our completely renovated science classrooms (all-new biology, chemistry and physics labs)
    • Find out about our "Project Lead the Way" engineering program.
    • Get a hands-on appreciation for our BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) technology program and iPad classroom sets in action.
    • Learn about our Dual Credit and Dual Enrollment partnership with Marymount University.
    • Hear more about our Global Studies Certificate Program.
    • Explore our college-prep curriculum, including our 28 AP subject areas.
    • Visit our chapel and the student lounge sponsored by the Chaplain's office.
    • Learn about our Expanded Services for students with intellectual and cognitive disabilities.
    • Find out more about our First Year Experience program and our comprehensive college counseling program.
    • Have a conversation with the staff of the Muller Academic Services Center.
    • See our arts program in action on stage and in our visual arts studio.
    • Tour our new sports fields and feel the excitement of Knights athletics.
    • Explore our diverse clubs and activities available to all students.
    • Find out more about scholarships, tuition assistance and O'Connell bus transportation.
    • Meet our faculty, administration and coaches and chat with current students.
    • Experience the O'Connell community first-hand, and find out why it's a GREAT day to be a KNIGHT!

    SAVE TIME! Download and fill out the Open House registration form before you arrive. Bring the form with you to OPEN HOUSE and return to the registration desk upon arrival.

    DOWNLOAD the registration form HERE.

    Questions? Contact or call 703-237-1433.

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  • 10/07/16--07:37: Bishop Burbidge's Visit
  • Thoughts from our Head of School, Dr. Joseph Vorbach:

    On Wednesday, the day after the news was announced that Bishop Michael Burbidge, the current Bishop of Raleigh, N.C., would become the 4th Bishop of Arlington on Dec. 6, our Bishop-designate visited Bishop O'Connell. Bishop Burbidge had asked to have an opportunity to speak with a group of students representing all classes and he did this in the library with about 70 students, led by the Student Council Executive Board. This was a moment when the Bishop placed the students at ease, told them about his experiences of the past 48-hours, and fostered a dialogue with them about vocations, catholic education, and what makes Bishop O'Connell special.

    There was a special continuity between Bishop Loverde's recent visit to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit and Bishop Burbidge's of just the other day. During Bishop Loverde's last formal visit to Bishop O'Connell, he showed once again his love for Catholic education and, perhaps in the most personal way he ever has during a visit to our school, reminded students of the power of prayer...his for all of us, and his wish that we would pray for him as well. Bishop Burbidge's visit provided great evidence of his love for Catholic education, his respect for those engaged in providing it (mentioning particularly the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who were part of his education from as early as kindergarten), and the energetic and joyful spirit he is bringing with him to this new calling as our Bishop.

    After the initial meeting in the library, the Student Council leaders took Bishop Burbidge on a tour of the school that began with a visit to our chapel, included a brief meet and greet with parents and school counselors who had just finished an informative coffee, and ended with a few drop-in visits to some math classes.

    What a blessing it was to have Bishop Burbidge visit on Wednesday! I ask everyone in the school community to pray for both Bishop Loverde and Bishop Burbidge during this time of transition.

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