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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School

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  • 10/14/16--09:17: Hispanic Heritage Assembly
  • Hispanic Heritage Assembly Flags

    Bishop O'Connell celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with a community gathering on Oct. 6. The Unity Council, moderated by Mr. Drew Edmondson and Mrs.Monica Stabile, sponsored this event. Under the leadership of Sierra Moore, Ellie Ward, MireyaLopez and Gaby Veliz, the assembly opened with a procession of students carrying flags from countries of their heritage.

    Students took turns sharing personal reflections about the wonderful diversity of Hispanic culture. Gaby Veliz addressed the students with her thoughts on being a Hispanic-American and shared her experiences of blending her two cultures. Senior Ariana Darui, read a poem by Gloria Anzaldua, a Chicana poet, "To Live in the Borderlands." Ariana remarked, "The assembly was a way to become more in touch with my heritage. I take pride in my Mexican culture."

    Lorena Meruvia stood next to a banner depicting Our Lady of Guadalupe and enlightened the audience about her story, her miracles and what she means to the Hispanic culture.

    Susie and Cecy Juarez shared their experiences of a recent mission trips to Mexico to help local children who are needy. The assembly helped the two of them kick off a school-wide drive of collecting supplies for their next trip this winter.

    Senior Alexis Fernandez shared the story of her own father's dangerous boyhood journey from Cuba to begin his life in America. Minerva Martinez said about the assembly, "It made me very emotional. I heard the stories of my parents."

    In addition to these presentations, the club engaged the student body in a series of trivia games and much more. The assembly also included musical performances--Anthony Socarras performed Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens and later Daniel Herrerias performed "A Dios Le Pido" by Juanes. Jennifer Maranon and Paola Iriarte dazzled the audience with a traditional dance in full costume from Bolivia, called Caporales.

    The club organizers expressed their pride in the success of the assembly. "It means so much to me that we are embracing our culture while living the American dream," said Gaby Veliz. "We are bring our culture to the O'Connell stage to show our pride."

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    Thoughts from our Head of School, Dr. Joseph Vorbach:

    Eight years ago, we undertook an effort to strengthen the way we celebrate the rich ethnic and racial diversity in our school. A student Unity Council was formed with faculty moderator leadership from Mrs. Monica Stabile and Mr. Drew Edmondson. This group has played a leadership role in efforts undertaken at the school each year to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, African-American History Month, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

    On October 6th, the Unity Council coordinated the Hispanic Heritage Month assembly, an event that included student performances of songs by Ritchie Valens and Juanes, poetry recitals, traditional Bolivian dancing, and testimonials from our students about Faith, culture and family. (You can read more about this event and view photos HERE.) In addition, yesterday's Mass included readings, intercessions and songs in Spanish as part of a further extension of our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

    This link to a Catholic Relief Services webpage has some useful information about the history of this month-long celebration:

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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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    Porto check presentation photo

    Bishop O'Connell received a very special gift last week when Leo Alonzo and Bill Dalgetty from Porto Charities presented the school with a check for $12,500 to support Expanded Services for students with cognitive or intellectual disabilities.

    The number of students receiving expanded services at Bishop O'Connell has grown from two to six in just one year and one more special education teacher has been added to the school's faculty.

    "Our innovative and inclusive educational approach allows students to learn alongside their peers throughout the day and be immersed in the life of the school," said Susan Rinaldi, director of Expanded Services. "We've been able to grow thanks to the wonderful support of organizations like Porto."

    "This gift impacts our entire school community," said Head of School Joseph Vorbach. "Our motto is Better Together, and our 60 peer mentors and 20 inclusive classroom teachers will be the first to tell us how the students receiving Expanded Services enrich everyone's O'Connell experience."

    Alonso has been supporting programs for the disabled for more than 30 years, through his work with organizations such as Special Olympics, the International Order of Alhambra and Porto Charities. He is also a Bishop O'Connell alumnus from the class of 1969.

    Porto Charities is dedicated to actively assisting people with developmental or intellectual disabilities; their community and their environment. Their mission is to raise and provide funds, resources, assistance, education, residences and overall improved quality of life for people with developmental or intellectual disabilities; and promote education, awareness, friendship and social forums among members, their families and the community.

    Photo: Joining O'Connell students Adam H. and Josie B. are (left to right) Bill Dalgetty, Jennifer Bigelow (Arlington Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Schools), Carl Patton (Assistant Head of School), Joseph Vorbach, and Leo Alonso.

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  • 10/21/16--14:33: Homecoming and Much More
  • Thoughts from our Head of School, Dr. Joseph Vorbach:

    One of the blessings of working in a high school is the chance to be a spectator to the spirit and enthusiasm of young people on a daily basis. Spirit Week before Homecoming is a special opportunity for students to show their spirit a bit more and we did see them having fun this week with their costumes, their preparations for the dance, and today's pep rally. Some choose to go "all in" on the silliness and creativity and others take a more moderated approach, but in general everyone enjoys the brief shift from our uniform of the day, and the whole exercise helps build excitement for the events of the weekend.

    A lesser known dimension of the Homecoming weekend for current students and families is tonight's Alumni Awards Dinner. Among those honored tonight will be pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Joel Schmidt (DJO 1976 - Distinguished Alumni Award) who is a member of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, our own Sister Catherine Hill (DJO 1966 - Alumni Service Award), Olympic swimmer Kate Ziegler (DJO 2006 - Athletic Hall of Fame); and the 1996 Softball Team. At this event, alumni will reminisce about their time together as Bishop O'Connell Knights, probably recalling, among other things, a Homecoming moment from years ago. This is a wonderful event when award recipients pay tribute to parents, siblings, coaches, teachers and friends who made a difference in their lives and the truth that Bishop O'Connell is a special place is affirmed.

    I hope to share with the alumni tonight a sense of the energy, purposefulness, idealism and compassion we see in the student body today...not only during spirit week, but throughout the year.

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  • 10/24/16--09:13: 2016 Alumni Awards
  • 2016 Alumni Awards

    On Friday, Oct. 21, members of the Bishop O'Connell community gathered at Gerald Phelan Hall at Marymount University to recognize an outstanding group of alumni. This year's Alumni Awards Dinner honored the following graduates:

    H. Joel Schmidt, M.D. '76
    Distinguished Alumni Award
    Dr. Schmidt is a pediatric pulmonologist who has dedicated his career to focus on cystic fibrosis (CF). His medical career spanned 26 years in the U.S. Army before joining the Division of Pulmonary Medicine at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU. He is now the CF Care Center's Pediatric Program Director.

    Sister Catherine Hill, I.H.M. '66
    Knights Service Award
    Sister Catherine has been serving students in Catholic schools for her entire career. She began teaching middle school in the Philadelphia area, before becoming a high school chemistry teacher and later an administrator. She returned to Bishop O'Connell in 2005 and currently serves as the school's Dean of Academics.

    Erin Blakely '00
    Catherine Blakely '02
    Allie Blakely
    "The Pie Sisters"

    Young Alumni Award
    Successful entrepreneurs, Erin, Catherine and Allie Blakely created the Pie Sisters of Georgetown bakery in the fall of 2010. Their sweet (and savory) treats have been featured in local and national media.

    Brian Drury '80
    Athletic Hall of Fame – Football and Basketball

    Dana Bredice Smith '81
    Athletic Hall of Fame – Cross Country and Track

    Ray Williams '91
    Athletic Hall of Fame – Football

    Natalie Price '96
    Athletic Hall of Fame – Softball

    Kate Ziegler '06
    Athletic Hall of Fame – Swimming

    1996 Softball Team
    Athletic Hall of Fame
    Jennifer Bell, Amanda Blizzard, Margaret Byram, Kristen Crawford, Amanda Gallen Eager, Rosie Ortiz Frimpong, Lisa Sandoval Fucci, Amy Gadell, Terry Brant Garvert, Megan Moynihan Houtz, Katie Lacrois, Andrea Mournighan, Jessie Scott Mydlinski, Natalie Price, Claudia Hickey Thompson, Emily Wilkinson, Jessica Wimmer. Coaches: Tommy Orndorff, Tony Hyde, Heiskell Gray (d.)

    For more information, visit our Alumni page.

    1996 Softball Team

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  • 10/28/16--14:16: Nurturing a Rich Tradition
  • Thoughts from our Head of School, Joseph Vorbach:

    Last week, I wrote a bit about the links between the current students' experiences of Homecoming and those of the alumni returning to the school for our awards dinner and other events. There is a continuity from which a rich tradition has emerged and continues to be nurtured.

    At the alumni awards dinner, I heard our Distinguished Alumni Award winner Dr. Joel Schmidt '76 express his gratitude to former O'Connell teacher Tom McNichol for encouraging him to take the National Math Exam. Hall of Fame inductee Dana Bredice Smith '82 thanked the same Tom McNichol, her cross country and track coach, for helping her recognize that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone and for giving her the love of running for life. Two-time Olympian and former world record holder, swimmer, Kate Ziegler '06 thanked O'Connell for extending and nurturing her Faith. The entire evening was wonderful and these comments from the award recipients, just a sampling, reflect the impact of positive, student-centered high school experiences.

    On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I attended the AdvancED Virginia annual conference in Portsmouth, Va. AdvancED is our accrediting body and some of the conference was focused on the way in which data about student engagement is being captured and used to improve the learning experience. A lot of research has gone into the way in which accreditation visiting teams spend time in classrooms observing the students, focusing on student engagement. Obviously, the strongest evidence that learning is taking place is direct observation of students who are engaged in the process.

    As I listened to the sharing of best practices at this conference, I was very encouraged by the alignment between what I was hearing and what is going on at Bishop O'Connell. We have a great deal of peer sharing going on among our faculty regarding strategies that maximize student engagement. Teachers are even posting signs outside their classrooms to encourage their professional peers to come in and observe. Teachers are also using a peer observation tool to capture generic data about practices being used in the school to engage students. Our instructional coaching program is supporting teac hers as they experiment with new strategies.

    Modeling life-long learning is another gift that educators can share with their students and I am very encouraged by the degree to which our learning community is embracing approaches that value continuous improvement and student engagement. Twenty-five years from now, an O'Connell graduate from the class of 2017 will be standing at a podium receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award and thanking one of his/her mentors, a current faculty member, for making learning fun and meaningful and inspiring in them a lifelong interest in science, or engineering, or math, or history, or art, or theology, or literature, or language, or politics, or wellness....

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  • 11/09/16--11:28: Pride, Spirit Fuel Knights
  • THE WEEK THAT WAS - Sports Blog by Tommy Orndorff

    A Friday "White Out"

    O'Connell Pride. It was on full display on Friday night, as a steady stream of O'Connell students flowed into the Paul VI stadium making their way to the far end zone's sideline. The "White Out" was quite the spectacle, and, to say the least, impressive. As was the enthusiasm. And, to their credit, they made their presence known from the very beginning – exchanging cheers with PVI's Sixth Man following. Friday Night Lights at its best.

    There's pride. Then there's Pride, as is To'ren Pride.

    The host Panthers pretty much dominated the opening quarter, but had just three points to show for it – a 27-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining in the first period. But old mo was about to change.

    Pride, as in To'ren Pride, took the ensuing kickoff at the one-yard-line and electrified the crowd with a 99-yard kick return – staking the Knights to a 6-3 lead that they never relinquished the rest of the way en route to a decisive 40-3 win over their long-time rivals from Fairfax.

    Shortly thereafter, Pride took another one to the house – returning a punt probably 60 yards as the sidelines and O'Connell student section erupted in celebration. The rout was on, or so it seemed. But the Knights were called for a penalty on the play, nullifying Pride's burst to pay dirt. Score or no score, his exploits had the sidelines buzzing...the crowd was into it. The energy along the sidelines was unreal. One could just feel it – and, to be sure, it felt great.

    By halftime, Coach Colin Disch's charges owned a 13-3 advantage and was now controlling both lines of scrimmage. Their quickness and physicality was beginning to take its toll on Paul VI. A 27-point fourth quarter put the finishing touches to this one, with Pride once again igniting his teammates and the student section – scoring on a 32-yard TD jaunt. No flags this time. Much to the delight of the "White Out" student section, the rout was on.

    The fleet-footed Pride was amazing. His totals for the game were amazing. All-purpose yards: 211. That's right, 211 all-purpose yards. Add to that, two touchdowns and a third which was called back. His exploits electrified the crowd right to the final whistle.

    A Saturday "Blue Out"

    And, somewhat surprisingly, that same spirit and enthusiasm carried over to Saturday night: a "Blue Out" at St. John's College High School for the WCAC Volleyball championship game. Once again, the O'Connell student section made their presence known from the outset. They were into it. As were the two teams, Holy Cross and O'Connell.

    It was, indeed, a championship setting. The gym oozed with intensity, with two of the DMV's top teams squaring off. Each serve, each volley, each point magnified by its importance because of all that was at stake. It was an awesome atmosphere. And, at the same time, nerve-wracking.

    Holy Cross took the first set, 25-10. Coach Mehdi El Alaoui's team appeared uptight, overwhelmed by the moment and all the pressure that comes with it. We were not ourselves. We were in trouble.

    Somehow, someway, we gathered ourselves – and suddenly began playing our game. It was a thing of beauty to watch. Maxine Friedman was on her game, showing everyone why she was selected the WCAC Player of the Year by the conference's coaches. "Max" is the complete player, both at the net and on the backline – and it was all on display on this night. "Max" came to play, and her teammates rallied behind her.

    Game Two: 25-21, O'Connell. We were back in it!

    This one was going to go the distance as two well-coached, highly-skilled teams competed at a very high level of play. It had to be the best volleyball game that I have witnessed in my 32 years here at O'Connell.

    Set Three went to the Tartans, 25-16. But, the Knights were not done yet as the O'Connell girls overcame a slow start to draw even, finishing on a 5-1 run behind the serving of Sarah Lawler – prevailing 25-20 and knotting the score at two games apiece.

    Digs. Dives. Sets. Kills. Blocks. It was all on display on this night.

    The tension in the gym was beyond belief. Sr. Tracy was praying the rosary at one end of the gym while the packed-house gymnasium was engaged with every point throughout. It was Game Five, and the season was on the line. Two teams who have worked day-in, day-out since the middle of August to get to this point: the final set of the WCAC championship game. The pressure was intense. It was an awesome setting.

    Game. Set. Match. Bring it on!

    Holy Cross did, jumping out to a 7-1 advantage – exchanging points the rest of the way in claiming a 15-8 win and, with it, their fifth straight WCAC Championship.

    In the end, the Knights had no answer for #1 (senior Emily Ryan, a UCLA commit). She dominated along the frontline, hammering home kills with authority. She was outstanding...just outstanding. Kudos to Ryan and Holy Cross! It was a great game, a great atmosphere...made all the better by the two student sections.

    On this night, I was proud to be a Knight. In oh-so many ways, I was proud to be a Knight. What an atmosphere! Ditto for Friday night at PVI!

    What a weekend it was! Go Knights!

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

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    Thoughts from our Head of School, Joseph Vorbach:

    This morning we had an assembly that was part salute to student achievement and part salute to veterans. It was all really wonderful. Many of the scholarship recognitions we did for students today included the presence of both the scholarship namesake or sponsor as well as the parents of the recipient. Having these special guests present reminds us of the blessings that generous benefactors bestow on our school by supporting Catholic education and the accomplishments of students in our school. Having parents with us reminds us of the enterprise we are engaged in every school day -- to assist parents, the primary educators of their children, by providing their children with an excellent, Catholic, college preparatory education.

    When we transitioned to the Veterans Day portion of the assembly, veterans on the O'Connell faculty and staff were called forward and the Jazz Ensemble played a medley of the service anthems. The Boys Choir accompanied by piano and violin sang a beautiful version of the song "Tell My Father." The students then heard from Mr. Rob Anders, a 2002 West Point graduate who active duty as an Army Infantry Officer in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2004 and 2007 and is now a Major in the District of Columbia National Guard. Representing the Travis Manion Foundation (, Mr. Anders told the audience about the ultimate sacrifices made by Travis Manion and, in a separate incident, his good friend Brendan Looney. He told them the story of Travis Manion saying, "If not me, then who?" in response to a friend asking rhetorically why he had to deploy again.

    The entire morning, in a very providential way given our country's preparation for another peaceful transition of power after a presidential election, was full of reminders about the blessings of our democracy and the noble courage that has been demonstrated over centuries to protect and advance its ideals. If you go deeper into the Travis Manion website at (, you can view an emotional video about Travis and Brendan. As the video concludes, President Obama issues a call to "honor the memory of the fallen by living out these ideals [e.g. integrity, honor, courage] everyday of our lives in the military and beyond." Today Rob Anders, himself a combat veteran, reminded all of us of the many ways we can rise to meet that challenge in our daily lives.

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    Southern Hospitality show posterThe O'Connell Players present the comedy, "Southern Hospitality," Nov. 18-20 at Bishop O'Connell High School. Show times are as follows:

    Friday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m.
    Saturday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
    Sunday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.

    Ever since the Super Smart Mart closed, folks have been leaving the small town of Fayro, Texas in droves. But Honey Raye is determined to save her hometown from disappearing. With a major assist from her former arch-nemesis, Geneva Musgrave, the two ladies come up with a plan. It seems a salsa manufacturing factory is looking to relocate, and a company representative is headed to Fayro on a scouting mission. Honey Raye makes promises in order to woo the rep to choose Fayro. In fact, Honey Raye has told them that on the very weekend of the rep's visit, the town just happens to be having their biggest celebration of the year (which was a fib). So now it's up to the citizens of Fayro to quickly make her promises a reality, pull together and save their town.

    Don't miss this fun evening of entertainment! General admissions tickets are $10; students and seniors are $5.

    For tickets and more, visit or call our box office at 703-237-1448.

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  • 11/14/16--17:53: Two Teams Win State Titles
  • Girls Cross Country

    On Friday, Nov. 11, the Bishop O'Connell girls cross country team topped off their 2016 season by capturing the Virginia Independent School Athletic Association (VISAA) title. Running on a course at Fork Union Military Academy, senior Isabell Baltimore crossed the finish line in 2nd place with a time of 19:44. She was followed closely by teammate, sophomore Maddie Fleenor, who finished 5th with a time of 20:11. Sophomore Maggi Flood and junior Grace Pulliam finished in just over 21 minutes, and all four had times that qualified them for All-State recognition.

    The Lady Knights finished 31 points ahead of 2nd place team, Collegiate School from Richmond. O'Connell was missing their #3 and #5 runners, who were both sidelined with injuries.

    "They ran their hearts out," said head coach Cindy Walls, who was recognized at the meet as the winningest girls cross country coach in the state meet's history. She has coached seven O'Connell teams to the championship.

    Read more about the cross country win from the Arlington Sun Gazette.


    The next day, O'Connell's volleyball team capped off their season by winning the VISAA title in a 3-1 game over Flint Hill. The championship game was played in Petersburg, Va., with the Lady Knights winning the first two sets, before dropping a close third set, 27-25. The fourth set was a nail-biter, with the Knights prevailing, 28-27, and giving O'Connell the victory over the #1 seed Huskies.

    The Knights earned their way to the championship game by defeating St. Anne's – Belfield (3-0) in the quarterfinals, and then Bishop Ireton (3-0) in the semifinals.

    Extra reasons for celebration came during the state tournament when seniors Maxine Friedman and Sarah Lawler each reached their 1000th kill in their high school careers. Maxine's came during the semifinal game on Friday, while Sarah's was reached on Saturday in the third set of the championship game.

    "Winning the state championship has been this team's goal all year," said Head Coach Mehdi El Alaoui. "They knew it wouldn't be easy to beat Flint Hill, but everyone was focused on making it happen."

    Read more and see photos from the VISAA volleyball championship from the Arlington Sun Gazette.

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    Earlier this month, more than 250 O'Connell students took a field trip to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. In addition to becoming acquainted with the many museum exhibits, students received a special tour of the sacred mosaics in the chapel by religion teacher, Father Michele Benetti. The group also celebrated Mass together before enjoying lunch at Catholic University.

    "This trip allows us to take student off campus to some place beautiful, where they can easily encounter Christ," said religion teacher, Ed Fitzpatrick. "In class, we talk about the Eucharist and being the body of Christ on earth. The museum puts the textbook concept into a vivid real life experience."

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    2016 State Champions photo

    The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) has recognized the 2016 Bishop O'Connell High School softball team for its excellence in the classroom for the 2015-16 academic school year. O'Connell ranks 15th nationally among the NFCA's High School (Weighted) All-Academic Teams, with a grade point average of 3.978.

    Long recognized as one of the country's premiere softball programs, this recognition speaks volumes about the softball team's success both on the playing field and in the classroom. Only one other school in the state of Virginia – St. Catherine's School in Richmond – is listed in the Top 41 posted by the NFCA on their website in the weighted grade point average category.

    In individual accolades, 14 O'Connell players were named NFCA All-America Scholar-Athletes: Angela Cottini, Olivia Giaquinto, Leah Hammes, Elizabeth Hoeymans, Mary Catherine Hurley, Lyndsay Flippin, Julia Jones, Caitlin Jorae, Patty Maye Ohanian, Sophia Rzonca, Amanda Saffelle, Kathryn Sandercock, Jenna Spille and Cora Wack. Each of these student-athletes achieved this distinction by compiling 3.5 GPAs or better in the classroom.

    Also, this past summer, the team had three players named to the NFCA All-South Region Team: Olivia Giaquinto, Patty Maye Ohanian and Kathryn Sandercock – the first step towards gaining All-American recognition on the national level.

    The Knights had two players named All-Americans by the NFCA, with Patty Maye Ohanian earning NFCA 2nd Team All-American distinction and Kathryn Sandercock garnering NFCA 3rd Team accolades. Ohanian was a 3rd Team All-American honoree in 2015.

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  • 11/16/16--10:36: District Choral Honors
  • On Saturday, Nov. 5, Bishop O'Connell High School vocal students attended the annual District XII Choral Auditions. Over 700 students from Fairfax and Arlington county high schools participated in the auditions with 235 selected for the event. Students receive scores for their audition in the categories of vocal tone, intonation, rhythmic accuracy, interpretation, and sight reading. Nine Bishop O'Connell students and three alternates were selected for the 2017 District XII Chorus and will participate in a festival on February 9-11.

    District XII is one of several districts in the state of Virginia created by the Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA). The District Choral Auditions are very competitive due to the high level of excellence among choral programs in the northern Virginia area. The mission of the Virginia Music Educators Association is to provide leadership and professional development to ensure quality music education.

    Pictured below – Front row (l to r): Besa Bucaj, Grace Rafferty, Jessica Gliot, Ava Coffin, Annemarie Wolf, Andrew Oliveros. Back row: Peter Lucas, Audrey Somerville, Paul Bean, Zoe Forino, Dina Phipps,Vasili Varfis.

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    "The Week That Was," Sports Blog by Coach 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 second-year varsity football head coach Colin Disch.

    THE WEEK THAT WAS: A great finish, my friend. Especially so down the stretch, when we put three in a row in the win column. Looking back on the 2016-17 campaign, what are your thoughts? Share with us your observations on the season itself, from Day One at tryouts in August to the final whistle in that 40-3 victory at Paul VI in the season finale.

    COACH DISCH: Our team had to become familiar with each other on all aspects. We had 10 new starters on offense and seven new starters on defense, many of whom were sophomores. In addition, we had 14 new coaches and only two returning at the Varsity level. We all had to gel together. Our team continued to improve throughout the course of the season. Our coaches did a great job of preaching fundamentals and putting our players in the best positions to be successful. Our offense evolved over the course of the year, but we really found our identity over the last three games of the season. We were going to run the football, play good defense and win special teams. It was great to see all the kids believing and playing for one another.

    TWTW: That season finale at Paul VI was amazing. Early on, Paul VI seemed to have their way with us in the first quarter. Then, To'ren Pride broke one, and "ole mo" was with the Knights the rest of the way. Never have we looked better! Talk to me about that game specifically, addressing the positives and why the game unfolded the way that it did.

    COACH DISCH: PVI controlled the ball the entire first quarter and only came away with three points. They moved the ball, but I really think when we held them to a field goal in our red zone, that was a difference maker. Then we took the kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, which gave us all the momentum. Defensively, we knew they were going to complete passes and pick up yards, but our plan was to keep everything in front of us and make them earn every "blade of grass." They did a great job of executing the game plan. Offensively, we wanted to run the football. Our offensive line was gaining confidence, and we have multiple running backs who present different challenges to a defense. We gained over 300 yards on the ground and controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage. This has been our goal since Day One, to dominate up front. If you can control the line of scrimmage, you'll be successful at any level of football.

    TWTW: Any season has some highs and lows. Give me some of the team's highlights for the year, areas where we demonstrated the most improvement. Also address any adversity that we might have had to overcome along the way.

    COACH DISCH: Our home opener against Bishop Ireton was a tremendous win with all of the circumstances that took place. We lost our starting quarterback on Friday and played the next day with sophomore Vince Pizzano as the starter. He had had limited reps with the varsity team. The game was played in 100-degree heat. Vince had a big touchdown throw to (Bradley) Magee and, more importantly, didn't turn the ball over all day. In the second half, we had six starters go down with heat cramps and players had to shift and play positions they were not accustomed to playing. I was very proud that every single player on this team stepped up, and it was a complete team effort.

    Another game was Trinity Episcopal. They jumped out on us 14-0 at half. We played bad football up to this point. In the second half, our team really showed grit and perseverance. We ended up winning, 23-14. It was a tale of two halves. But those are important games to pull out when you're learning how to win.

    TWTW: Who were our top players, and why were they so? Address their individual skills and abilities and, at the same time, what they brought to the team. On both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. Also special teams. Any stats or anything like that would be nice, as well.

    COACH DISCH: Our punter/kicker, Ethan Torres (pictured left), was a big part of our success. He's a defense's best friend. He was one of our most consistent players on our team and, on multiple occasions, pinned an offense inside their own 20-yard-line. He had a 40-yard average punting, and the opponents had an average starting position on the 24-yard-line. In addition, he had 22 touchbacks on kickoffs.

    Stacey Watts (pictured below) was our quiet leader that all the players and coaches highly respect. He played both running back and defensive back and finished his career with his best game of the season against Paul VI with 175 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He practiced as hard as he played in the games and did anything a coach would ask for the betterment of the team.

    Amari Johnson was our most versatile player in many ways. He played inside linebacker and defensive line and was our anchor on defense. In addition, he was a good blocking tight end and long snapped. He led the team in tackles with 77.

    To'ren Pride (pictured top) was a key part of our team in all three phases. He played wide receiver and wildcat quarterback. On defense, he played our rover position, which requires someone to be very athletic and be able to cover and support in the run game. He also had multiple TD returns as a punt and kickoff returner. He had over 800 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns.

    TWTW: From where I sit, there have been a lot of changes the past 12 months. Most telling, I suppose, the school's decision to play an Independent schedule rather than compete in the WCAC in football. Also, a revamped coaching staff on your part. In your estimation, how did all that work out for you?

    COACH DISCH: We brought in a great group of coaches, who spent a lot of time working on the fundamentals with the players. I was very pleased with how our coaches continued to find ways to help the players improve, and it really showed up in the last three games. We had a very challenging and competitive schedule this year. We were disappointed not to make the playoffs, because we really thought by the end of the year we were one of the top four teams. Our players and coaches handled it very well, and the state playoffs will be a significant goal for us heading into the off-season.

    TWTW: We just completed Year Two in the Colin Disch era. Talk to us about your program and where we are right now, sharing with us your goals for the program, both short-term and long-term.

    COACH DISCH: I have a bit of an old-school mentality as a former college inside linebacker. We want to create a physical brand of football which thrives on dominating the trenches. To give you an idea, we went full pads every day in practice, even in walk-throughs. This is the mindset we want to create. It all starts up front in my eyes. That toughness from the O line and D line resonates through the rest of our team.

    I think we've created a good foundation and some momentum heading into the off-season. We need to retain our great coaches and continue to bring in coaches who can help enhance the program. We are all about the development of the individual. Every player that is involved in our program, we are seeking to help them improve month-to-month. This starts in the off-season and continues throughout the summer and into the season.

    TWTW: Anything else that you would like to add?

    COACH DISCH: We all should be very proud of this senior class. They endured many ups and downs in their four years at O'Connell. Through coaching and conferences changes, they stuck together and were loyal to O'Connell through it all. I believe much of our success at the end of the season came from the lessons we learned and acknowledged last season. I couldn't be more happy for our seniors to finish on a high note. Well deserved.

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

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  • 10/21/16--14:33: Homecoming and Much More
  • Thoughts from our Head of School, Dr. Joseph Vorbach:

    One of the blessings of working in a high school is the chance to be a spectator to the spirit and enthusiasm of young people on a daily basis. Spirit Week before Homecoming is a special opportunity for students to show their spirit a bit more and we did see them having fun this week with their costumes, their preparations for the dance, and today's pep rally. Some choose to go "all in" on the silliness and creativity and others take a more moderated approach, but in general everyone enjoys the brief shift from our uniform of the day, and the whole exercise helps build excitement for the events of the weekend.

    A lesser known dimension of the Homecoming weekend for current students and families is tonight's Alumni Awards Dinner. Among those honored tonight will be pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Joel Schmidt (DJO 1976 - Distinguished Alumni Award) who is a member of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, our own Sister Catherine Hill (DJO 1966 - Alumni Service Award), Olympic swimmer Kate Ziegler (DJO 2006 - Athletic Hall of Fame); and the 1996 Softball Team. At this event, alumni will reminisce about their time together as Bishop O'Connell Knights, probably recalling, among other things, a Homecoming moment from years ago. This is a wonderful event when award recipients pay tribute to parents, siblings, coaches, teachers and friends who made a difference in their lives and the truth that Bishop O'Connell is a special place is affirmed.

    I hope to share with the alumni tonight a sense of the energy, purposefulness, idealism and compassion we see in the student body today...not only during spirit week, but throughout the year.

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    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 continues that recent trend – a Q&A session with girls tennis head coach Eric Parson.

    THE WEEK THAT WAS: Talk to me about your season, both the regular season and the WCAC Championship Tournament. During our talks this fall, it seems like this is a very young team with those younger players also very, very good. Your thoughts on the season and our future with these young players.

    COACH PARSON: The coaching team approached the 2016 season wholly optimistic with hopeful hearts and open minds. Having graduated four seniors from last year's squad – our top four seeds, each of which were spirited leaders, we were left with a great deal of open opportunity. We have a young team rich in spirit and talent, if perhaps a bit a short on confidence and competitive experience. We would be a team in transition, and there was much to be discovered. And "discovery" would be my main message and mantra for our players throughout the season. As Aristotle said: "Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom."

    TWTW: Who are our top players – and why are they so? In our earlier conversations, you were really high on your sophomores...what do each of 'em bring to the table that makes 'em special?

    COACH PARSON: Emerging as this year's #1 player was sophomore Ola Barrettt (pictured above). Ola is a transfer student, and this is her first season with the team. She proved to be a vital addition. I am continually impressed by her adaptable and thoughtful approach during play. Grit and guile are her greatest assets. She works hard during the point, plays to her strengths, and looks to exploit her opponents' vulnerabilities. That's high praise for the tennis player.

    At #2 is sophomore Jen Gulley(pictured right). Jen is a talented true all-court player. She is blessed with a beautiful service motion, and when it's on, it is a serious weapon. Consistency in her service game is key to her confidence and success. Within the point, she is at her best in attack and transition play, ripping the approach and looking to finish at the net.

    Sophomore Annie Clerici plays at #3. Annie is a pure power player, hammering her serve and pounding the ball with prodigious pop off both wings. She is particularly strong off of her blistering back-hand side. She is most successful when dictating play and keeping the points short and sweet.

    Playing at #4 is junior Sarah Tran. Sarah has a great deal of talent and potential. She has ability to control play with a big serve and heavy ground strokes. Harnessing and channeling her talents is Sarah's challenge as she continues to grow in confidence.

    At #5, junior Shalyn Roscoe-Dunton is a highly athletic and spirited competitor. She is our team cheerleader, figuratively and literally, as we share her with the DJO cheerleading squad.

    Rounding out our top seeds at #6 is sophomore Corrine Reusch. Quite contrary to her off-court demeanor, Corrine has a quiet intensity on court. She is tenacious in her efforts and a driven competitor. Practice and patience are paramount to the continued improvement in her competitive play.

    Our #1 doubles team pairs Ola and Jen, at #2 is Annie and Sarah, and Shalyn and Corrine play at #3.

    Our roster also includes senior Karol Calvimontes, sophomore Annemarie Cake, and freshmen Abril Brea, Abby Kinsella and Valencia McIntosh. Each make significant contributions to our team culture and perform positively in ISL, exhibition and seeded play.

    TWTW: What was our overall record and WCAC record? Where did we finish in standings?

    We closed the season at a solid 5-8, 4-4 in conference play, and a fifth-place finish at the WCAC Tournament.

    TWTW: Anything else that you would like to add... topic, point, anything?

    COACH PARSON: This year's campaign was an enriching and rewarding experience for the coaching staff, team and our tennis family. We embraced our challenges and now have a greater understanding of ourselves as players and as people. We look forward to the future, wiser and bettered by our experience.

    Also of important note...

    The girls and boys varsity tennis teams came together this fall for a service project, hosting the first of what we hope to be an annual Bishop O'Connell/CYO Tennis Clinic. Our players engaged with over 50 youth tennis players, sharing their experience and love for the game by practicing drills and playing games. It was truly a compassionate venture and great success.

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  • 12/02/16--15:02: Celebrating Vocations
  • Thoughts from our Head of School, Joseph Vorbach:

    When I was young and my father was leading prayer before dinner, he would often add in something to the effect of "Lord, if it be your will, let someone from around this table serve you in a religious vocation."

    Since returning to O'Connell more than eight years ago, my father's prayer has come back to me frequently as we routinely pray for those in our community who have entered religious life and for those in our student body who are feeling called to that possibility.

    Today, we welcomed religious sisters from four different communities (Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Daughters of Saint Paul, Sisters of Life and Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist) for a Knight Time visit with the young women of our school. The Sisters then stayed for the lunch periods and visited with our students.

    Also visiting was Allison Gliot (DJO 2012), who will soon enter the postulancy for the Daughters of Saint Paul. Allison will join Katie Moore of the class of 2002 (Poor Clare Sisters), and diocesan seminarians Will Nyce (DJO 2008), Jeff Petroski (DJO 2009), Peter St. George (DJO 2012) and Robbie Renner (DJO 2012) as another alum currently pursuing a religious vocation. We pray for all of them as their commitment to their Faith and their God is remarkable and they are preparing to live lives that will help others grow in Faith. Their vocations are gifts to our Faith community.

    It happens that on this day of the visits from the Sisters, we also had a working lunch with Father Paolo Sottopietra, FSCB, who is our Father Benetti's superior who was visiting from Rome. His visit was another reminder of the way that those who answer the call to serve God in a religious vocation respond to many challenges in the service of the Faith. Father Sottopietra's responsibilities stretch across the globe to communities in North, Central, and South America as well as Europe. His community prepares young men to go far away from home and serve others trying to grow closer to God. We are blessed that he sent Father Benetti to us.

    When you pray this week, please pray for those pursuing a vocation in religious life.

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  • 12/09/16--10:05: Upcoming Christmas Concerts

  • Join us for two nights of Christmas music and more...Admission is FREE!

    Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.
    Instrumental Christmas Concert

    Thursday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m.
    Christmas Choral Concert
    with Bishop O'Connell Vocal Ensembles and St. Mark's Choirs

    Bring your family, friends and neighbors and enjoy an evening of festive music.
    Both concerts will be held in the school auditorium,
    and are sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.
    Merry Christmas from Bishop O'Connell High School!

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    Thoughts from Our Head of School Joseph Vorbach:

    Last week I wrote a little about recent vocation experiences at our school. I return to that topic again this week to share a little about my experience attending Bishop Burbidge's installation as the Fourth Bishop of Arlington this past Tuesday.

    One connection between last week's blog and this week's blog is our seminarian alums. When the procession began at the begin of the installation Mass, the first to enter were the seminarians, and we saw our four O'Connell alumni (Will Nyce '08, Jeff Petroski '09, Robby Renner '12, Peter St. George '12) process in with about 40 other seminarians. The seminarians were followed by the Deacons, and we saw our former social studies teacher Paul Ochenkowski and current O'Connell parent Ed Gliot processing with their brother Deacons.The priests of the Diocese came next, and there were at least 200 present. Then came a large contingent of Bishops followed by two Archbishops, three Cardinals, as well as Bishop Loverde and Bishop Burbidge.

    In short, when considering, too, the many religious sisters present for the event, the Installation was an enormous example of continuity regarding vocations. All lay persons present, particularly those like me who had never had an opportunity to attend something like this, could not help but be struck by the powerful imagery of the moment; and the moment was made even more memorable by the liturgical music that was so strong and crisp that it elevated everyone to the importance of what was going on.

    Once our new Bishop was installed, he was greeted by a variety of representatives that included O'Connell seniors, Ellie Ward and Gianni Snidle, and Mass began. There was a moment during Bishop Burbidge's homily when he expressed thanksgiving for his predecessors and acknowledged Bishop Loverde specifically. There was a warm ovation for Bishop Loverde as the entire congregation wanted to ensure our departing Bishop felt the love of the community for his tireless efforts over 17 years.

    The entire experience had a joyful and hopeful feeling to it, which was reinforced just two days later, when our new Bishop stopped by the school's I.H.M. convent to wish our Sisters a happy feast day on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We are truly blessed!

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