by Arnav Rajdev/Lion Staff
Times are changing for the Varsity Boys Soccer Team. New head coach, new uniforms, and a new culture. But one thing remains the same: the ultimate goal, which is to win a state title. Now, it is a well known fact that every sports team’s true goal is to get a ring, but this time it’s different. There is something special about this season; almost like a story. So let me bring you up to speed.
It was the third Wednesday of August, and the 2017-2018 school year was a week and a half old. There were freshmen adjusting to the Upper School schedule, sophomores finally finding their footing, juniors flinching with every AmStud assignment, and seniors who had already begun a countdown to graduation on a whiteboard. But on that Wednesday, a mixture of about 40 of these seemingly different perspectives came together in US 200 for a meeting. A Boys Soccer meeting.
It happens every year, but this year there was a new coach leading the meeting. Coach Serafy went over the technical stuff about workouts and speed and agilities, but perhaps his most impactful words were in an email the following day where he provided three key dates: the first day of tryouts, the Westminster game, and the GHSA AAA State Championship. When asked about his expectation for the team then and now, Coach Serafy replied, “I wanted to turn the program in the right direction and start building for a state championship and restore the program to that level so, for me, I want to win a state title this year.”
And with that, the guys got to work.
Every Friday during the fall semester, the guys would get together, head up the weight room, and do some sets on the TRX before heading down to Carter Field to play an hour long pick-up game. Coaches are not allowed to work with players during the offseason, Coach Serafy and Coach Hamilton would always slow down to watch us for a moment when they passed us on the way to their cars. When asked about the Friday afternoon pick-up games, senior captain Julian Young responded, “We’ve been doing that for the past few seasons, so to be able to lead it as a senior this year was really cool.”
But the guys also had workouts to complete, and if you went into the weight room on any day during the fall, odds are, you would have seen J.J Mutombo and Aaron Powell. J.J. had the most offseason lifts and Aaron led in the speed and agility category.
J.J. and Aaron weren’t the only dedicated ones. Guys like Jack Nowland, Luke Casey and Cyrus Walls were also consistently trying to improve their abilities.
Each week of workouts and pick-up games brought them closer to tryouts and the start of the season. With just a few days left until tryouts, the guys gathered on the turf field for one final pick-up game. And then another drastic change hit the team. Starting goalie Aaron Powell was playing up top, and got tangled up with CB Luke Casey. Aaron’s left leg planted awkwardly, and just like that he crumpled to the turf. A torn ACL.
With that, the team entered tryouts...without a goalie.
Tryouts flowed pretty smoothly, although some of the guys had a tough time adjusting to Coach Serafy’s eye-contact policy. (When he’s talking to a player or the team, they must maintain eye-contact.) Then on the second day, the guys truly faced their goalie reality when Coach Serafy asked if anybody wanted to give goalie a shot. One of the guys who stepped in goal was Luke Casey. “The coaches approached me about playing goalie beforehand,” said Luke, “and I wasn’t really set at any other position so I was excited.”
There weren’t many cuts. In fact, two of them were seniors: Amir Suber and, well, me. But that was one of the greatest aspects of this season. After getting cut, I became the Manager of the team, and Amir is somewhat of a number one fan, attending every game. Essentially, the group that trained together for months, and tried out together, are all still together.
The season opening scrimmage against Mount Vernon came up fast. Luke had won the starting goalie job. “I was nervous going in,” said Luke, “but once the game started I felt great.” As he should have. The final score was a 5-0 Lovett win. In his first career game as a goalie, Luke had a clean sheet.
Part of the reason for this success can be attributed to Julian’s switch to centerback. “I haven’t really played centerback consistently before,” said Julian, “but I’m enjoying it and I’m just trying to get better.”
Julian’s counterpart at center back, senior Harlan Stone, is also making his presence felt. He provided the team their first goal of the regular season in an impressive 2-2 tie against North Atlanta. After going up 1-0, NAHS struck back with a goal of their own to tie up the score. The game went back and forth for a while until NAHS broke the tie and went up 2-1. When asked about the game senior Neil Patkar responded, “I feel like if we played this game last year, we would have lost, but this year I was confident that we would tie up the score.” And that’s exactly what happened. Freshmen Lucas Hyman scored shortly after NAHS went up 2-1, to tie the score up at 2-2.
The guys subsequently lost to a highly ranked Decatur team, and lost a heartbreaker to Buford a few days later. The team actually tied up the game against Buford late, but they scored off of a long free kick that was just out of rookie goalie Luke Casey’s reach. Luke wasn’t lacking in confidence after the game, however. When I walked over to the bench, the first thing I heard was Luke affirming, “Pace doesn’t know what’s coming! They aren’t ready.”
And sure enough, that confidence paid off.
Late in the game against Pace, with both teams still knotted up at 0-0, Pace secured possession on a breakaway, and was essentially 1 v 1 against Luke. Luke hesitated for a split second, and immediately stepped up in the box and lunged forward, knocking the ball down, and making an incredible save. And with less than 10 minutes to go in the game, leading scorer Lucas Hyman knocked in the game-winning goal. When asked about Luke’s performance as goalie so far, Coach Serafy singled out his performance against Pace, “He has done an admirable job. You have to give him credit for accepting this role and continuing to improve as he has. He had a very good game for us in the 1-0 win over Pace.”
Despite the huge region victory, Lovett did not play a perfect game. As sophomore defender Cyrus Walls stated, “We did not play our best game that night, but we will continue to get better.”
And they did, responding with two more region victories, one of which was an 11-0 blowout against Redan on the road.
And now you are up to speed.
April 17th vs Westminster is certainly circled on everyone’s calendar, but there is an abundance of work to be done in the meantime. Coach Serafy is cautiously optimistic: “I am impressed with the guys and their efforts to date but we still have some improvements to make but, yes, overall, I am very pleased with this group of guys.”
There you have it. Things are different for Boys Varsity Soccer this year. Of course a new system and culture always takes time to implement, but rest assured that the primary goal this year is winning.
Ultimately, Senior Jack Nowland said it best, “This isn’t a transition year; it’s a title run.”