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Varsity Soccer • Fall 2016

The 2016 Varsity Soccer team endured a Hero’s Journey of it’s own and one which will go down in the school’s history.

South Kent Varsity Soccer is unique amongst the rest of the teams in the league. Every year we start with a new crop of young, enthusiastic players while also having few returners. Many players move on to the Prep team and some players look to explore other options. On average South Kent receives five returners per season. That is drastically smaller than any team in the league which may have as many as ten returners in a single season.

Every season, however, the Varsity team has a new group of players come down to the field to answer their Call to Adventure; that first day, they all make the commitment to begin their Hero’s Journey as part of the Varsity team. This year we had four third formers answering the Call to Adventure in the talents of Zhuo Niu, Khalid Al-Mutawa, Casey Dorsey, and James Lawlor. Casey Dorsey and Zhuo Niu pushed themselves and quickly earned their positions in the roster, while Al-Mutawa and Lawlor worked hard and continued to develop throughout the year and will certainly be key components for the 2017 season.

Five fourth formers joined the team and added greater depth to the roster. Players like Jonathan DaSilva and Luke Mattesich anchored our defense shape and provided veteran like composure. Dylan Sock added to the offensive side, scoring crucial goals in the postseason and adding a competitive sharpness when it was most needed. Both Weicheng Li and William Amory added a willingness and eagerness to learn more and grow as players, also providing key appearances when most needed.

The largest contingent of students answering their Call to Adventure was in our talented and hardworking fifth formers. Players like Bozhang Ma, SeHo Chun, Yudai Suzuki, Shiqi Hu, and Amir Ghiasi added a core of driven, hard working players who fought for starting positions and provided reassurance in a number of positions. Their passion and experience will be a welcomed addition to the 2017 squad. Another one of our fifth formers, Hunter Clarke, struggled to earn much field time as he suffered a string of injuries which kept him sidelined. On the other hand, in the small number of minutes he appeared on the field, he was certainly an impactful player scoring a goal in the Kent Derby and adding pace and force to the frontline. The last of our fifth formers were the talents of Roman Sanchez, Paul Coulibaly, and Ernesto ‘Kuki’ Armenteros. Kuki joined us as a defender, however, quickly demonstrated his eye for the goal, ending the season as the team’s top scorer with 13 goals. He scored critical goals in the second half of the season to propel the team through our playoff opponents. Roman Sanchez had an opposite switch, joining us as a forward and then finishing the season as our right back. He provided pace to the backline as well as a key understanding of defensive coverage. Finally, we had the returning veteran leadership of Paul Coulibaly. Paul was a key component of the team in last year’s playoff run and returned this season fulfilling the role of team captain with supreme leadership while netting the occasional goal also.

Finally we had the veteran core of our returning captains and seniors; David Cheng, Zehong Liu, and Jack ‘JRev’ Revenaugh. The player of the season from game one to the final was Zehong Liu. His development over the last three years had been incredible, and his work ethic on the field inspired a comeback over The Forman School that will go down in South Kent history. David provided a discipline and leadership style which cultured the younger players to listen and learn from their mistakes. Besides his crunching challenges, David also brought an energy onto the field that will be difficult to replace. Finally, JRev, a South Kent boy through and through. His three years with the team were filled with moments of lows and highs. It was only right that JRev should score the game winning goal against Christian Heritage to secure South Kent their fourth HVAL Championship.

Last but not least was our veteran goalkeeper Chris Paciello. Chris provided mental toughness and experience to direct the Cardinal defense, while making key saves in multiple games. His most crucial save came in the final game as he was one-on-one with a sprinting Christian Heritage attacker. It was in the first ten minutes of the game and a goal that early certainly would have been a nail in the coffin. With a calmness, Chris stood his ground and was able to react with a fingertip save to curve the shot wide and keep the game open for a South Kent victory.

All of these boys answered the Call to Adventure, but the journey was certainly not over. The season was full of tests and challenges. Beginning with severe losses never experienced before by a South Kent soccer team, to small victories still uncharacteristic of the traditionally successful program; the season was full of adversity.

The crisis of our season was in the quarterfinals of the HVAL postseason tournament. The last few weeks of the season saw South Kent climb the table from sixth to fourth, meaning the quarterfinal would be us hosting The Forman School. Last year’s season ended at The Forman School when the Lions had Lady Luck on their side and defeated South Kent in the HVAL Final on penalty kicks. Needless to say, the meeting between the two teams in this year’s quarterfinals was certain to be a showdown. RIght from the whistle though it appeared that the Lions were more hungry than the Cardinals, going up 0-2 in the first have and stunning the South Kent crowd with a third goal quickly in the second half. With 15 minutes to go, South Kent’s season looked to be ending as it had begun; in another stunning defeat. As the Hero’s Journey predicts all heroes must experience a crisis, but what makes a hero a hero is how they respond to the crisis. South Kent responded, not once, not twice, but three times before the 90 minutes were up. Forman were stunned as the final whistle blew and the game was leveled 3-3. Goals from Kuki, Paul, and Liu lead the Cardinals out of the 3 nil deficit and gave them a chance to extend the season. Golden Goal overtime was required to separate the two teams and South Kent went into the added time with the game’s momentum in hand. It did not take long for the fabled story to take form. James Lawlor was taken down 30 yards from goal, giving Luke Mattessich the opportunity to send in a freekick and pinpoint the rising frame of Roman Sanchez. Sanchez’s header redirected the ball back across net, over the keeper and into the upper corner where it may have received an assurance push into the back of the net by a rushing Dylan Sock. South Kent eliminated tournament favorites Forman with a 4-3 comeback.

This comeback win secured a chance to take on Wooster in the semifinals, the team who handed South Kent a heavy 0-8 defeat in the beginning of the season and the team who won the regular season with a 7-1 record. Again, this was a game that the squad looked forward to as we all felt that the defeat suffered in the regular season was unjust as we were riddled with injuries and missing players to other commitments. We looked forward to the opportunity and took full advantage, leaving Wooster School with a 5-2 victory. That win booked our place in the finals, where again we were provided a second chance to take on a team who had previously beaten us. Christian Heritage, our long standing rival and common opponent in the championship game had left South Kent earlier in the season with a 2-6 win. Again, we wanted the second chance.

The game was intense. An incredible demonstration of tactics and passion as players worked tirelessly to execute the plans drawn up in the locker rooms only hours before. Both sides had their opportunities, with Christian Heritage getting a handful of quality chances early on. Dylan Sock opened the scoring midway through the first half with a well placed scooped shot which found its resting place in the net. The half ended and South Kent were up 1-0; by no means was the game over. It was once again only right that the game winning goal should come from JRev. A player who represented the team well on and off the field, a player who poured his all into every game, and a player who claimed the fourth HVAL Championship for South Kent in his final game of his South Kent soccer career on the field he had called home for the past three years. JRev secured the Championship for South Kent!

All Hero’s Journeys come to and end with a success or failure. Early on, one would have had a hard time imagining the season ending in such a success; however, the boys responded like heroes and fought, dragged, and battled their way to the championship game. They answered their Call to Adventure, they endured Adversity and Challenges, they overcame a Crisis, and they earned the title of 2016 HVAL Champions.

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