Riverside's Simon Weeren emerged as a force last year for the Rams, and he figures to play on a significantly improved team this year.

Dulles District Preview: Can Valley stay on top?

The Dulles District appears to be a conference that will look very different this year from last. While all the teams have an abundance of returning players, the powerhouse program, Loudoun Valley, remains an exception. The 2018-2019 season looks as though any team has a shot to beat any team, and that no teams fate will be decided until February. Last year the push for regionals was between Loudoun Valley, Loudoun County, and Woodgrove, but at this point every team is viewing a legit shot for the top couple spots of the district. The mix of new players, coaches, and familiar names will make the 2018-2019 season tough to predict until things play out into their entirety.

Riverside Rams: 2017-2018 Dulles District Record 2-10

As the newest program in Loudoun, the past few seasons have gone how you might expect for the Rams. The program has only been around for three seasons, but this year could be the Rams’ chance to make the jump the school has been waiting for. In their first season in the Dulles District the team split with Dominion and Park View bringing them to a 2-10 record in conference play.

“Fourth-year program. Looking for this to be a breakout year. We look to use our team speed to push the ball and increase tempo over our slug-it-out power offense led by Jason Odom who graduated. We want to get out and run,” says Head Coach Mike Koscinski. He believes this could be the year for a much more experienced Rams team.

The Rams return a strong core of seniors. Forwards Brian Barrett, Trevor Jackson, Hadi Khan and junior guard Simon Weeren all started at times last season. Barrett is a pick and pop shooter while Jackson is having a strong football season as the Rams’ starting QB. Weeren and Khan bring toughness and competitive fire to the floor. Senior guards Alex Keyser and Zack Bennett offer different skills off the bench and had “key contributions last season,” according to Koscinski. This will certainly be a year where the Rams have a deeper team with players contributing throughout the team.

In addition to those returnees, the Rams also add guards Brett Asbury, a senior arriving from Potomac Falls, and Beau Everett, a junior from Paul VI.

“Our maturity is unlike what we’ve had in past years,” says Coach Koscinski. “These young men have been challenged and have scrapped through adversity. They are great to coach because they get that the team must come first.”

The combination of the unselfish play style, and talent this team is bringing this year has a good chance to make them a team in Loudoun one should go out of their way to see. The experience the team brings this upcoming season could prove helpful in possible postseason success.

Park View Pioneers: 2017-2018 Dulles District Record 1-11

Park View was easily the most improved team from two seasons ago to last year. The Patriots struggled two years ago establishing a team that could function whatsoever, but last year Anthony Leone as a first-year head coach turned the program in the right direction. The Patriots recorded three wins last year, one of which was a huge victory for the team over Riverside.

The Patriots bring back four out of their five starters including Gabe Calalang, Josh Shelton, Lowell O’Connell and Toufeeq Sharieff. When Leone was asked about aspects the team needed to improve on he replied: “Toughness. We need to be harder to play against, at times we’re too passive. Considering that we’re smaller than 90% of the teams we play we have compensate by being hard to play against, especially defensively.”

The areas Park View needs to improve on is its defense and decision-making. “[We need] more of a commitment to the defensive end of the floor,” Leone told novahoops.com. “Over the summer we made strides in this area, but we need to continue to get better. I think our guard play is solid, but our decision-making needs to improve, understanding good versus bad shots, and really learning how to control the game with our guard play. I feel good about our guards, but the mental side of the game has to grow. I think if some of things happen early in the season it could go a long ways towards really improving our team.”

When asked if the team could make another jump this off season as they did last offseason Leone says, “I think it’s possible, but it really depends on if we can improve consistently over the course of the season. I think we have guys that are more committed to that process this year but there’s no guarantee it’s going to happen. We lost a couple guys through the whole football situation (Park View didn’t field a varsity team this year), which didn’t help. But I think we have some guys ready to step into those roles. Bottom line is that we need to grow. The program has improved over that past year but there’s work to be done.”

If the Patriots want improvement like they’ve seen from two years ago to last, then it’ll take the whole team to buy into the system and then there’s a real chance for this team to be competitive in every game they play.

Dominion Titans: 2017-2018 Dulles District Record 4-8

The Dominion program is one with some definite high hopes for this season. In prior years, they have lingered in the pool of mediocre teams. With the emergence of experienced players, Dominion’s prospects appear to be positive. This will also be Anthony Eifler’s first year as a head coach and seventh overall. He comes from Briar Woods as a assistant, providing this team the excitement of a new coach and the direction he could take them.

“We’re returning a lot of experience, especially in the backcourt with Jaden Hickey and Max Mancuso, and Michael Discher in the post,” says Eifler. The two junior guards and senior center should provide the experience the team will need this year, having two second team all-conference players from last year in Mancuso and Discher. Additionally, the Titans added Keith Robinson, a junior guard from Potomac Falls.

Eifler’s team looks to play a lot of man defense, and when talking about what’s going to take the team to the next level he states playing as a driven group–“playing team ball, sharing the ball offensively.” This Dominion team appears like one of the more balanced teams around between big post players, talented guards, and players spread out through the grades. It’s also worth noting the Titans freshman team went 15-1 last year as pointed out by coach Eifler. If the Titans remain disciplined and play as a team, then there’s a lot of things this team could do that the program hasn’t accomplished in recent years.

Dominion's Michael Discher has the length and athleticism to dominate for the Titans.
Dominion’s Michael Discher has the length and athleticism to dominate for the Titans.

Woodgrove Wolverines: 2017-2018 Dulles District Record 8-4

The Woodgrove Wolverines are coming off a very strong season, making it to the district finals and competing in regionals. After going 8-4 in district play, the third-seeded Wolverines beat number two Loudoun County for the spot in regionals against John Handley. The Wolverines were led by Brock Redman, Alex Owen, and Owen Fuller last year.

The Wolverines lost Fuller and shooting guard Patrick Strite (transfer to Bishop Walsh) but still return nine players, three of whom were starters last season. They include Zack Johnson, first team all-region player junior Brock Redman, and second team all-region player senior Owen.

“We have grown mentally and physically. After graduating several players a couple years ago this team has to go through the growing pains of being a young team. Now we are older and have been in some of these positions before which I think we are able to handle now,” says coach Stephen Douglas. “I would like to bring a faster tempo this year. Offensively and defensively, be more physical on the boards.”

This team will be dangerous just with Redman being one of the most talented big men in the area, and Owen’s dangerous outside shot. The Wolverines are bringing the experience and depth this year to be ready too pose another playoff run and be a force in conference.

“Every team sets goals to be in the top of the district at the end of the year. If we come out and play every night aggressive and together wins and losses will take care of themselves. How far we go in the district and in the region will be determined by staying healthy and winning games,” says Douglas.

Loudoun County Raiders: 2017-2018 Dulles District Record 9-3

The Loudoun County Raiders were one of the strongest teams in the district last year with the second-best district record, but ultimately came up short in the conference semifinals against Woodgrove for the spot in regionals. The team is bringing back a good chunk of their players with big names such as junior guard Matthew Anderson and senior guard/forward Joe Alexander, both of whom were second team all-region last year.

“Our strong point is our experience, we had some tough close games last year that will help prepare us for this year,” said head coach Mark Alexander. “I think we’ll be a fairly deep team, being able to play different guys and do different things.” This team traditionally has relied on discipline, but appears to be bringing back more talent than they’ve had in recent years. “Historically we’ve been a team that had to be smart and take good shots, playing smart, and playing within our strengths is what we’ll have to do,” Alexander adds.

With players such as Anderson, Alexander, and Derek McCandless, the Raiders should have the experience and talent to work with to stay on the higher end of the district. When asking coach Alexander what’s it going to take for this team to stay competitive he said, “We have to grind on defense really well, as well as rebounding, we don’t want to get in shootouts, we want to control the tempo as opposed to others teams controlling it for us.”

Loudoun Valley Vikings: 2017-2018 Dulles District Record 12-0

The Vikings are the most altered team from last year on paper after graduating four out of five starters. But what remains is the discipline and unselfish play that has built the Valley program into the powerhouse it has been known for.

Valley returns a strong junior class including guards Trent Dawson, Umayr Obaid, and forward Clyde Volker. The Vikings also return senior guard Robbie Adams, who along with Dawson will look to run the show up top. “We can’t replace the players we graduated. Our idea is not to replace, but reload,” says head coach Chad Dawson. Junior guard Avery Nance helps Dawson do just that, as the shooting guard arrives in the program this year to give the Vikings good depth at shooting guard.

“We play so hard every time we step on the floor, we just compete so well,” says coach Dawson when asked about the strong points of the team.
“Coming into this season we definitely have a chip on our shoulders, with all of our seniors leaving which made up most of last year’s team. I think this year we will be a very successful shooting team and everyone on our team plays hard on defense, so we are going to be a tough team to beat.”

“We definitely have a lot of ground to make up, and improve,” adds Obaid. “We take pride in our defense, and cherish it more than our offense because with great defense we put ourselves in a position to win any game.”

If the Vikings stick to the style of play that’s been attached to the program, then they’ll find themselves in position to come out on top of the conference once again. No program in the conference has given them problems recently besides their one loss to Heritage during the 2016-2017 season, but this year with the apparent improved strength of the Dulles District the Vikings will have to compete every night to stay on the better side of the standings.

Valley's Trent Dawson has ample big game experience for teh Vikings. (Photo Chas Sumser)
Valley’s Trent Dawson has ample big game experience for the Vikings. (Photo Chas Sumser)

Heritage Pride: 2017-2018 Dulles District Record 5-7

Heritage is looking to get back into regional position after a strong 2016-2017 season, followed by a so-so showing last year. The Pride, like most teams in the Dulles District, return a large chunk of their team. Heritage returns four starters, including two second team all- conference players in senior guard Moustapha Sene and sophomore guard Max Jannes.

“With the style of play we will be playing, the expectation is for the entire team to fill big leadership spots, and roles,” says new head coach William Hatchett.

“We play a high-paced, entertaining-type game very well,” says Moustapha. “Our mentality coming into this year as a team is to win a lot of games, and have a statement year for the program.”

Coach Hatchett talks about the team’s endurance and mental toughness as the strong points of the team. “Pressure, pressure, and more pressure, as well as outwork other teams,” coach Hatchett says when asked about what his coaching mentality is this year. As a first year coach at Heritage he’s changed things around but he feels as though the changes have been well accepted, and that as long as the team buys in 100 percent this team has a chance for the top of the district.

If Heritage remains the disciplined, gritty team we’ve witnessed in the past they’ll likely be a team to have success with a postseason run.

–Grayson Alto

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