Nick Hillary's Recap of the 2009 Alumni Game!
Tradition and customs will always be revered and refined; this process has been a natural occurrence in our global society for centuries. Acknowledging and adding to established tradition therefore is a historical catalyst for continued success. ‘Customs' and ‘tradition' has played a significant part in the achievements of the Men's Soccer Program. St. Lawrence Tradition is celebrated annually when former saints come marching in from all parts of the world. Such gatherings over prior years have offered much by way of providing an environment for the tenured Saints (Alums) of the program to share their experiences with current varsity squad. By default therefore, the same was expected of this year's gathering.
Similar to Alumni game '08, the weather conditions this year was very "Jamaican." The temperature was in the mid-80's with a light breeze blowing in from the west across the beautiful, freshly lined soccer pitch, affectionately referred to "Sandy" by the current crop of Scarlet and Brown.
There was a sizable crowd on hand to witness the battle between the Alumni and the young varsity team. It was a truly great atmosphere, one that was staged for a battle. The fight would blanket ‘Sandy' for the next two hours during the 2009 Alumni game.
According to the All-American player, Andre White, "both the vibes and the mood were perfectly suited for this year's Alumni gathering." I must concur with "Natty" on that one. After all, this is a significant year, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Men's Soccer Program's run of perfection en route to the national championship. Time has gone by as fast a Saint winger. Ten years my friends, yes it has been that long. The ambiance surrounding this year's gathering to commemorate perfection by the 1999 Squad, in my view, was surely befitting of such an accomplishment. So the question becomes, what was the reason for such ambiance? I would have to say that the responsibility lies with a glorious turnout of Alumni. There were 34 alumni in attendance, ranging from the Class of 1975 to the Class of 2009. The coincidence is that, the total number of alumni in attendance for the event was equal to the exact number of years spanning between the earliest alumni and the most recent Saint veterans. 34 years. Perhaps it has to do with my personality, which is to analyze situations using numbers to index important aspects and/or achievements of the entity being analyzed. Coaches are said to be some of the most analytical people in society, it comes with the territory.
While I am on the topic of coaches, let me briefly address the coaching staff's strategic thinking as it related to the alumni game. The coaching staff had a tough decision to make with so many alumni in attendance. Nevertheless, the staff was able to make the best out of a great situation. Two teams were made from the group of alumni in attendance. This provided the Still Ares (not has beens) the opportunity to participate as much as the lungs would allow. The first team (the Red Squad) was comprised of the older alums, ranging from 1975 to 2001 mixed with the members of the graduating class of 2009. The second alumni team (the Brown Squad) was comprised of alums ranging from 2002 to 2008 graduates. With the alums having two squads for the varsity team to contend with, it was only fitting that the match between the varsity team and the Alumni Squads was played over a two hour time period. The two hours were divided into four 30 minute periods. This allowed each Alumni Squad the opportunity to participate for at least one full hour. The format provided much more playing time for the alumni to compete and have fun at the same time. The stage was set for the matchup between the Varsity Team and the Saints of yester-year.
Line-up for the Alum Squads
Team Red: Thornhill, Jay '09, Dwyer, Kiel '09, Fairlie, Ian '09, Falcon-Viale, Marco '09, LaMarca, Paul '09, Quitt, Dan '09, Howard Beckford '01, Nick Hillary '00, Danny Annan '00, Neil Patel '99, Franco Bari '98, Phil Porter '97, Andre White '97, Colin Lennon '96, Garrett Quackenbush '95, Isidro Rivilla '90, Bob Bernatchez '79,
Twig McGlynn '75
Team Brown: Mike Woulf '03, Dustin Crooker '03, Eric Bunyan '04, Evan Schutt '05, Garan Diarra '05, Charlie Bour '05, Garrett Huntley '05, Nate Farrell '05, Gil Schaper '06, Axel Galeano '07, Mike Bobbie '08, Sean Charles '08, Chris Harrison '08, David Osorno '08, James Merrill '08, Jeremy Smith '09
The first period got underway between the alumni squad (clad in the red Ajax style uniform) and a varsity team, dressed in the white Ajax style uniform. Referee Jeff James hardly blew his whistle to start the match, which caught the alumni players still chatting among themselves, perhaps musing about how great the Awards Banquet was last the night before, when the Varsity team got the show started. The varsity squad quickly strung few passes together following the kick off, and within a matter of seconds had penetrated the Red Squad's back line. Rising senior, midfielder Reed Carr played a well weighted pass into space and down the right flank for center forward, Dan Marvin. This particular pass from Reed turned out to be more of a through pass, which was just outside the 18 yard box. The pass forced ‘99 sweeper Nick Hillary to vacate the center of the defense and apply pressure to the ball carrier. At that same moment, the 95'goalkeeper of the red team, Colin Lennon was also forced to act in response as Marvin's first touch, which was a good one. His touch had taken him to just inside the 18 yard box, and within decent shooting range. As General Hillary closed the space between him and Marvin, Colin advanced to close down the angle. Marvin used great composure and precision to perfectly guide the ball past both the General and Colin into the left side netting to give the Varsity Team a one goal lead.
That was truly an early wakeup call for the Red Squad. In the midst of trying to bounce back from conceding an early goal, the alums began knocking the ball around, with all intention of penetrating the varsity's defensive fort. If one might recall, the varsity squad had a lot on the line, it needed to redeem itself from the 3 - 1 thrashing it took last year from the alumni squad. Now that I've pointed that out; the varsity boys were surely playing as if they wanted to redeem themselves. They were working hard on defense, applying constant pressure, thereby not allowing the alumni time to get things going. This pressure by the varsity team would soon pay off, again. The varsity team was able to pick off a slow pass in the middle of the pitch, and quickly counter attack, down the left side of the field. This particular play would lead to another game changing moment. Roughly ten minutes after the varsity team had taken the lead, they increased it, when they capitalized on the old-timers shortcomings. A turnover by the Red Squad, and two quick passes in the middle, the ball was played to the left flank of the pitch where winger, Joey Mattina was pretty much all alone waiting to make the most of the space. Joey went on a hard penetrating dribble, and before the Old-timers realized he was in the process of holding his head up and looking to the center of the goal mouth, trying to locate one of his teammates to whom he would eventually cross the ball...He was able to pick out Dan Marvin, who was lurking around the goalkeeper's box. Marvin, who was in more of a central position in front the goal, and in a similar fashion to how he had scored his first, calmly steered the ball pass the Red Squad's goalkeeper for his second of the match.
This second goal of the competition served to ignite the spirit of Red Alumni Squad. Play continued back and forth between the two teams. It was roughly at the halfway point in the period before the players on the Red squad were able to find their game legs. And when they did, it was on, the battle between the youthful Varsity team and Red Squad intensified... being two goals down the Red squad went in search of a goal to bring the match to a one goal differential. After several failed attempts to score by the Red Squad, they finally capitalized on one of their opportunities. With about five minutes remaining in the period, National Player of the Year (1999), Danny Annan found the back of the net, scoring a goal that would be a good candidate for Saint 100 best goals, and maybe even the top 10! It will be discussed for years to come. A fan pleaser to tell the truth, it was the kind of goal that would have opponents celebrating because it was that spectacular/amazing...from just outside the 18 yard box, on the left side of the pitch, Annan curled the ball into the top ninety (the pigeon hole), right corner beyond the reach of 6'3" goalkeeper Phil Jones. Jones, between the pipes for the Varsity team was given something to ponder and wonder. All goalkeeper Phil could have done was to follow the ball with his eyes into the top side netting. Without a doubt Danny's goal was certainly the goal of the day. The final whistle of the period sounded, and the score was 2 - 1 in favor of the varsity team.
The second period started out at an extremely high pace; after all, the varsity team had their game legs underneath them from taking on the Red squad in the first period. As a result the Brown squad had to catch up, and fast. I must say that due to their youthfulness, the Brown squad didn't require as much time to warm up to the pace. This was very reassuring to a few of the older members of the Red Squad who were voicing their full support of the Brown Squad and its early dominance. Despite the Brown Squad's fast acclimatization to the game environment, the young Varsity squad remained determined and steadfast in their offensive assault of the alumni goal, forcing 00' goalkeeper Dustin Crooker, standing between the pipes for the Brown Squad to make a few key early stops in the period. The Brown Squad was able to impose its will on the game, and had the lion's share of the possession within the first 20 minutes of the second period, and countless scoring opportunities, including one occasion in which the varsity players had to clear a ball off the goal line. This amazing save denied the Brown Squad what would have been its first goal. The young varsity team was able to repel the attacks and regroup as a unit. After reorganizing, the varsity team began to string several passes together, moving the ball from side to side all over the pitch, and penetrating as well. Eventually it happened!!! The young varsity team's offensive assaults paid off yet again when marksman Dan Marvin received a pass from Dan Casserly and buried it for his third goal of the match, recording his first hat-trick at this level.
From here, the Varsity team went on to score their fourth goal of the match. After putting together several passes and moving the ball all over the pitch, Dan Marvin was able to find Charlie Mildrum open in front of the Brown Squad's goal and serve him a nicely weighted ball, which Charlie then redirected toward goal. Shortly after scoring their fourth goal of the match, the varsity team continued its offensive surge and as a result tucked away its fifth goal of the match. The goal was scored by rising sophomore Dan Casserly who was surely a handful for the Alums who played in the back positions. The Brown Squad was now facing a three goal deficit, and on aggregate the Alumni squads was losing by a score of 5-1.
(At the half time break - Coach Goodwin looked on as Coach Durocher delivered his half time talk and made a few changes to the varsity lineup. Coach Durocher reminded the boys, and in no uncertain terms, that the second half of the match would be a lot more challenging and competitive).
After a rather brief intermission, the Red Squad took the pitch to commence the third period of the match and the final period for the Red Squad in the ‘09 Alumni competition. The third period was much like the first two, high pace and with lots of ball movement from both teams. Ball position in this period was pretty much even between the teams. The Red Squad was able to make a few minor adjustments to their Squad following a brief assessment of the performance during the first period. For their final stint, the Red Squad was able to withstand all that the young varsity team had to offer offensively. Meanwhile, on the offensive side of things, the Red squad was beginning to click and function as the legendary Team Blue. This was to be expected. The legs might be a step slower, but an abundance of pride still beats in the heart of every Saint. Once the players on the Red Squad found that common niche and began playing like they have been playing together prior to the alum game, it became difficult for the varsity team to move the ball as freely as they had done the first period. This new team chemistry that the Red Squad had rekindled boosted the Squad's performance and took the game up a notch. As one would have expected, the Red Squad would soon eventually have its investment returns from such change. The Red Squad was having plenty of fun letting the ball do the work on the pitch, moving the ball with one and two touches, hoping to cause imbalance and create gaps in the varsity's defensive fort. Then the moment of truth occurred; when freshly minted alumni, midfielder Paul LaMarca ran onto a through ball that was played into space down the right flank by ‘97 skipper Franco Bari. Paul was able to get to the ball quickly and then without any delay, looked up for a target around the box. He was able to locate his classmate, Jay Thornhill lurking just inside the 18 yard-box; and with pin point accuracy Paul cut back the ball to Jay who simply redirected on goal, past outstretched goalkeeper Jones in goal for the varsity team. Jay's goal brought the Red Squad's tally to two goals, and leveling the score of the game between the varsity team and the Reds at 2 - 2. The teams battled for the remaining period, without either team conceding another goal in match. The period came to an end rather abruptly when referee Jeff James blew his whistle to signal the end of the period. Although the score remained the same between the Red Squad and the Varsity team, the Varsity team was still in the lead by an aggregate score of 5 - 2.
The fourth and final period got underway...the Brown Squad picked up where it had left off at the end of the second period. The Brown Squad created a few more scoring opportunities in this period. And by creating those chances throughout the most critical period of the match, the Brown Squad was able to capitalize on two of their many opportunities. What really made the final period interesting was the fact that the Brown Squad was able to get those two goals relatively early to pull the match to within a one goal margin. The first goal for the Brown Squad was scored by graduate Alex Galeano '07 off a cross from ‘07 center forward Charles Harrison (Harry) who picked up the assist. Not long after registering their first goal of the match, the Brown Squad struck yet again. This time it was Harry who found the back of the net for the Brown Squad. Harry found himself in the right location, around the varsity goal mouth; to redirect a rebound off a shot taken by the coerver certified Charlie Bour. For the Brown Squad, scoring two goals in the fourth period of play while not conceding, made the final minutes of the match intense and interesting. Both teams were committed to fighting until the end. The Brown Squad tried their best to score a third goal to even up the match. The Varsity team gave everything it had so as to not concede a late equalizer. The Brown Squad had the major share of the ball possession in this period, but despite tallying two goals in this final period of the match, the effort just wasn't enough to get the job done against a determined Varsity team. When the final whistle echoed across the grounds of Sandy to end the match between the young varsity team and the Alumni Squads - the score between the varsity team and the Brown Squad was 3 - 2 in favor of the varsity team. Despite the Alumni Squads' unyielding effort to trounce the varsity team, as they had done the previous year, the varsity players had a totally different objective in mind. They showed that revenge is a gift best served cold, even on a warm day. The Varsity's objective was simply to win, and doing so playing the SLU style of soccer - possession and penetration, "easy". In the end the Varsity team finished on top edging the Alumni squads by a one goal. The Varsity was the victor of the 2009 Alumni match, and they won by an aggregate score of 5 - 4.
In summary, the young Varsity Team was able to pull it off, getting the job done, and doing so under very challenging circumstances. They battled for two hours, four half hour periods; faced two strong teams comprised of many legends of the program, and still walked away victorious. All the members of the Alumni Squads had only seen it fit to congratulate the young Varsity Team for a splendid performance. Unlike last year, this year, the Alumni Squads were the graceful non-winners. All the members of the alumni squads were extremely pleased with their overall individual performances. The result of the game and its impact did not cast a dark cloud over alumni. Their spirits, as was the case the night before, were lifted and content. The Alumni were still filled with excitement at the end of the game. So immediately following the exchange of the performance acknowledgments between all three squads the alumni picked up right where they had left off, chatting among themselves and reminiscing. To me, such behavior pattern displayed by the alumni is what the gathering is really and truly about, mingling and networking. Also, I shall let it be known that the sizable crowd that was on hand for the game did witness a battle that was filled with action, laughter, and jaw dropping performances. And finally, whether it's the Varsity Team or the Alumni group that wins, at the end of it all the Saints' Soccer Program is the absolute and undisputed champion of the Alumni Gathering.