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Coach DeStephanis' Fall Banquet Speech
December 14, 2011
Thank you and good evening….
As with any large undertaking, there are many people who are deserving of special recognition. It’s always a fear of mine that I may miss someone when it comes to showing my heartfelt appreciation. So please allow me one grand thank you on behalf of our coaches and players for all your support this season. From our loyal and understanding parents, to the school administration and alumni, straight through to our parent’s board – thank you – without your support, our program would not be able to function the way it does.
I’d like to start off by congratulating the entire Roman Catholic Athletic Department – what an exciting fall season it was! Collectively we made some noise in the PCL and good things are happening at Roman! This all happens because of the awesome efforts of our student – athletes. Well done boys!
As for soccer, we had the pleasure of welcoming back one of our own this year when former All Catholic, Matt Meier was named as our new freshmen coach. Coupled with Coach Mike Biddle, Matt turned a rocky start for our youngest footballers into a season to remember. Once they were off and running, the fabulous freshmen walked away with the best record in the Catholic League posting a record of 15-5. At one point late in the season, they ran off 13 straight victories to really distance themselves from the rest of the Catholic League.
In the Junior Varsity ranks, Coach Glenn Steiner returned to lead our boys through the rigors of another season, a campaign chock full of many highs and lows. As all the coaches here tonight will tell you, coaching a JV squad is not an easy task. But Coach Glenn always had his team prepared to compete and his boys were always at the ready when called upon to support the varsity squad be it on the field or on the sideline. Glenn I thank you for an awesome job the last two years with our JV Boys.
Moving into training camp earlier this year, there was a quiet confidence amongst the Varsity Team. This was a team whom knocked on the door of deep playoff runs the last couple of years and the senior leadership embraced that thought from day one. Collectively, our coaching staff knew that we had the makings of a team that should be right in the heart of the PCL championship run. As expected, the team got out of the gates playing very solid. In Wildwood to officially open the season, The Franchine Brothers helped to kick start the season against Lower Cape May when Joe knocked the net mere seconds into the match and to keep Roman rolling, in the 2nd half, brother Chaz served notice that Joe wasn’t the only Franchine who knew how to score when he nailed a beautiful shot to complete a 5-2 Cahillite victory on Labor Day Weekend.
Here are a few more of this year’s highlights:
As anyone in this room can attest, it’s always easy to get up for a game against St. Joe’s Prep, especially when they’re the defending PCL Champions. In a mid-season thriller under the lights at UGH in Langhorne, we found ourselves down by a goal very late in the match after basically outplaying the Prep all night. As the minutes ticked down to a precious few, our boys refused to give up until finally, with Senior Captain Mark Casasanto reeking all kinds of havoc in the goal mouth, hard work paid off when in a quick attempt to clear the ball from harm’s way, a Prep defender turned an fired a clearing attempt into his own net to even the score. The match proceeded into double overtime when at the end, it remained tied at 1-1.
A very similar outcome occurred on the same field late in the season when we tapped off against powerhouse Father Judge. Again, down late in the match our boys fired up the engines and attacked in waves. This time the payoff came of an assist from Senior Kyle Guldner who found Senior Captain Boomer Steigelman ready to make the deposit to tie the match and again force a nail biter of a double overtime. One remarkable play after another was the only thing that prevented our boys from putting this match into the victory column. Easily the match of the year and certainly one that anyone who was there is sure to remember for years to come.
Once again this year, we had the good fortune to travel up the New Jersey Turnpike to face St. Benedict’s Prep, a team that featured a player who already has scored a goal in the MLS for the Philadelphia Union. While the score on the field was not the desired result against the eventual National High School Champions, a road trip like this proved invaluable to team bonding and a lifetime filled of great memories in one afternoon. Additionally, earlier in the season, North Jersey’s Bergen Catholic traveled down to Philly and behind junior Kyle McHugh and Senior Captain Alex Hartzag’s goals, the purple and white notched an impressive 2-0 victory against one of North Jersey’s better high school teams.
As we entered into the playoffs, the back end of the grueling season had taken its toll as we had some serious injuries, a lot of nagging aches and pains and some shaken confidence. Still, we earned the right to a first round bye and a quarterfinal meeting with a very feisty and determined Conwell-Egan team. CE was charged when they took the field knowing that this could potentially be the last soccer match ever played under their school’s flag and they showed their pride. Junior keeper Dylan Rutledge kept us in the match early with one big save after another until finally, after weathering the storm and settling down, Senior Juan Cora redirected a head ball into the top corner of the net to provide the 1 nil margin of victory for the Cahillites. The win propelled the boys into the semi-finals for the first time in six years.
Speaking of the semi’s….
Standing under the lights at Northeast High School that night was an awesome experience for our boys. From one coach to another, we felt the energy in the air. We knew our boys belonged in the spotlight as one of the last four teams remaining with Judge, LaSalle and Prep, collectively the last three PCL Champions. This was quite a feat for the program. To ask our guys now, they will tell you it wasn’t the performance they were capable of against Father Judge. There are times, when you really think about the old sports adage, “Sometimes - the best team doesn’t always win.”
What I told the team afterward, is this: What you can take away more than any team title or individual honor, is a sense of accomplishment. Looking back to the summer, look at where you were as a person, a player and as a teammate. Gentleman, whether you realize it or not, we have taken great strides forward as a program. Of course, there is still work to be done. But, we are that much closer and we are building a very talent rich program that grade school boys throughout the city and beyond, can’t wait to be a part of and want so badly to pull on that RC soccer jersey.
To conclude, I say to you our seniors…
Be proud always to look back and say that you played a major part in getting Roman Soccer off and running again. Whether you came to us as 9th graders four years ago or transitioned into a Cahillite two years ago – take pride in knowing it was your efforts that really helped to turn our program around and back into the winning ways. There will always be a very special connection to my four year guys as you were my first recruiting class…..Oops! Am I allowed to say that? Seriously, you came here as boys and are leaving as young men. And as fine young men, I was proud to go into battle with you – never change. You are leaving one heck of a legacy for all that come after you and in the end – that should stand as your championship moment.
I wish you the best of everything for your futures, on and off the field and remember, you are always a part of Roman Soccer. You are the legacy. Congratulations.
It was an interesting offensive year for our team this season. There were many matches in which we put up some lopsided numbers against weaker opponents. Many times players on better teams will have inflated numbers because of this – not this young man. In many respects, he was just as valuable to our team as some of the more marquee players around the PCL were to their squads. But truth be told, when we needed someone to battle in tight quarters, win the ball and then possess the ball to give us an offensive hope, in my eyes, there were really none better. He finished the season with 7 shots on goal, 7 assists and 4 goals for 11 points. He served as one of three senior captains and was selected as a 1st Team All Catholic. Please welcome the man they call “Boomer”, Norman Steigleman.
One of the benchmark’s for any MVP selection is that of what exactly does this player do that makes him stand out from amongst the others? Does his play make those around him better? Is he a one dimensional player or can he in fact do it all? There is other criteria as well, but when you look at the body of work that this next young man has put together from anchoring a very stingy defense in which his play allowed his defensive mates room to grow and perform with confidence or being just as vital an offensive weapon as defensive piece, then you’re likely to come up with one name. This year marked his 2nd All Catholic selection, this time as the 4th pick overall, he pumped in 5 goals and one assist and an overall joy to watch him effortlessly play this game. Please congratulate, for a well deserved 2nd year in a row, Senior Tommy Kostic on being named this year’s Defensive MVP.
The last award is for a player of my choosing who I feel deserves special recognition.
Every team, be it a last place team or a first place finisher has that one player who just has that one intangible that is so important to the make-up of a team. It’s a player who leads and contributes on and off the field and who is not afraid to be the vocal leader or do the hard work on the field. It’s a player who understands his role and gets the most out of his minutes when called upon as a starter, sub or cheerleader. Although injuries and bad fortune hounded him through his 3 year varsity career, he still compiled 5 goals and 3 assists and there was never a time in which he didn’t leave his mark on a match. In fact, all too often, he was known to leave body parts on the field. His work as a senior captain this year was not only inspiring it was as Coach Jerry said about him, “probably one of the best captains I have ever had the pleasure of coaching.” No doubt you’ve read of his heart, desire and commitment this year, but all you really need to know about him is that when the final whistle blew in the semi-finals, and reality set in, the kid with tears in his eyes was this year’s Coaches Award recipient and well deservedly so… please welcome Mark Casasanto, Jr.