Boys soccer to fight for playoffs on senior night


Vandegrift Veteran Yearbook staff photo

Junior Elliot Keefe takes the ball past a Vista Ridge player

Miguel Blanco, Staff Reporter

Soccer is often called “The Beautiful Game” according to dedicated fans. Go on vacation to any nation or continent and chances are there will be a group of young boys or girls playing the sport, wherever it may be, dreaming of one day scoring in front of thousands of roaring fans. Like many others around the world, many boys varsity seniors grew up playing the game. Now they are gearing up to finish their high school careers with a playoff spot in contention.

Tomorrow varsity boys soccer will take on Stony Point at home, where they will be looking to win or tie in order to secure a playoff berth. Tomorrow’s game has added significance because it is senior night.

“I definitely have an added drive to win the game,” senior Grant Shaffer said. “It will be my last time playing at Monroe with all these guys that I’ve been playing with for the past four years, so I am definitely looking forward to it. But it will be bittersweet as well.”

Shaffer is completing his fourth year in the soccer program. Shaffer spent three of those years playing at the varsity level.

“I would definitely say that physically, I have gotten in better shape from playing all these years,” Shaffer said. “Furthermore, playing with all of my closest friends over the past four years has been a really good experience. By going through all these hard times together to get into the playoffs, I have really learned as a person, how to persevere.”

For one senior, the coaching staff played a crucial role on his development throughout his four years on the varsity squad. According to him, it can be difficult to remain focused after conceding a goal, however thanks to the coaches he was able to grow as a keeper.

“[The coaching staff] taught me that it’s important to have a short term-memory [as a goalie],” senior Connor Roth said. “If you make a mistake, you just have to get over it and move on, you just have to learn from it.”

Senior Cole McCue participated in the soccer program for four years, of which he spent two playing at the varsity level. McCue has been instrumental to the success of this season, scoring 14 goals in 16 district games. Two of his arguably most important goals were scored against district leading Westwood in the previous home game.

“One of my favorite memories is probably from sophomore year,” McCue said. “We won district undefeated [that year] when I was on junior varsity. I also enjoyed this year’s game against Westwood at home, when we won 5-2. We wrecked them. I loved that.”

According to some of the players, the team’s win against Westwood can be partly attributed to the support of the home crowd. With basketball season now no longer overlapping with the soccer schedule, student attendance at the home games is currently at its peak.

“The home crowds have definitely motivated me to play better,” Shaffer said. “We have had really good crowds this year. I think we had around 60 students at our last home game. When you hear them cheering on, it just pushes you a little more, and whenever you score you get to celebrate with them, it’s an awesome experience.”

According to some of the underclassmen on the varsity squad, this year’s seniors have also acted as great leaders both on and off the field.

“I’d like to mirror this year’s seniors by leading by example,” sophomore Sammy Sutorus said. “As an underclassmen the one thing I have always respected about certain seniors and certain leaders is how they act when no one else is watching. [The seniors] act all the time as good people and good leaders, which I feel is really critical for a successful group of people.”

For one freshman, the leadership of the seniors has been important to his development as a player, as the compassion shown by the rest of the team had a direct effect on the outcome of his year.

“When I began as a freshman on varsity I didn’t really know anyone besides some of the sophomores,” freshman Andrei Abazari said. “I was really nervous at the start. At first I actually wanted to be on junior varsity because then I could warm up to the team, but [the seniors] really helped me believe that I was able to play [at their level]. I wanna be like them whenever I’m a senior.”

The result of tomorrow’s game may ultimately hinge on the leadership of the seniors that has aided the team thus far. The players will also hope to have the largest crowd of the season in order to secure a draw or win on senior night.

“[We have to gain an edge] by coming in with high intensity like we did against Westwood,” McCue said. “We’re also going to have a big crowd for [tomorrow] so that will give us motivation. I think if we just go in like we’ve been playing, and if we press as a unit, work the ball to the middle and then out to the wings, we should be able to dominate this team.”