When Miles Vaughn first arrived at Episcopal for his first season as soccer coach just a few months ago, he was immediately tasked with replacing 14 seniors from last year’s squad. The Knights started the season 0-5.
But on Wednesday night, Vaughn and Episcopal (7-9, 3-0) sealed the Division III, District 6 title with a 3-0 win on the road against Christian Life (4-9, 2-1).
“To still be able to win district, in what you would call a rebuilding year, is a testament to what’s been done in the past with the Episcopal soccer program and hopefully it lays the groundwork for things to come in the future,” Vaughn said. “I think ultimately, the guys on the team have the right kind of mentality and attitude to be successful in games like this.”
Sparking the Knights was senior Justin Leopard who netted a pair of penalty kicks in the 44th and 50th minutes to give Episcopal an edge they never relinquished.
Leopard said he wasn’t thinking about the district title on the line when he stepped up to take the kicks — or the fact he was coming off a quad injury in the past two games — but it felt good to end his soccer career with championship.
“From Minute 1 our mentality was to go get it,” Leopard said. “Play our game and don’t play theirs. It was a little chippy in the first few minutes, but once we settled down, it was a good game from there.”
As far as Leopard is concerned, though, despite his two goals, his best play of the night was when he helped someone else score, again from a set piece.
In the 55th minute Leopard lined up to take a free kick just outside the corner of the box at about 35 yards when he saw teammate Trevor Bisson streaking toward the back post. Leopard bent the ball over the defense where Bisson hit a one-touch volley into the back of the net.
“He told me ‘back post’ and he was there and was able to hit it in,” Leopard said with a chuckle. “Yeah, I was happy about that one.”
The Knights finished the game outshooting the Crusaders 14-5, with all of Christian Life’s shots coming in the first half, which was a much more closely contested game.
Several times in the first half, the Crusaders seemed on the brink of scoring as sophomore Jonathan Azorou had several near-miss breakaways.
But Christian Life couldn’t sneak a ball past the Episcopal defense before halftime.
“There’s some things we can’t control, like the first goal and then some calls after that, and I think that took a toll,” Christian Life coach Danilo Brizuela said. “It’s kind of the team that makes less mistakes that comes out with the win.”