Ardmore >> When Nico Severini arrived at Lower Merion High School seven years ago, he instilled a Team Together philosophy that has paid dividends on and off the field with the outgoing senior class passing the torch that has been a key ingredient for the Aces success.
On Friday morning, Severini saw his Team Together philosophy in action as Lower Merion battled back from a 1-0 deficit to earn a 1-1 draw against visiting Avon Grove to open the 2016 campaign.
After the Sun Devils took a 1-0 lead in the 46th minute on an own goal by Lower Merion, the upperclassmen especially the senior captains (Ryan Tillman, Sebastian Jenkins, Alex Moureaud and David Smith) made sure the downtrodden look the younger kids displayed quickly evaporated.
“A lot of the younger players who haven’t been on the team as long put their heads down thinking the game was over,” said Tillman, referring to the own goal Lower Merion just allowed. “We knew as seniors we had to pick the team up, press harder and motivate them to get the goal back and possibly win the game.”
In the 51st minute, the Aces took advantage of a good build-up in the midfield where junior Max Shapiro was able to get wide before striking a perfect cross into the box towards senior David Novacich who was attacking the goal. With the Sun Devils trying to clear to keep Lower Merion from netting the equalizer, the ball glanced off the head of an Avon Grove defender and into the net leveling the contest.
After that, Lower Merion’s defense stood tall while their offense had a couple of attempts with the final chance coming in the 85th minute when Tillman had a chance to net the game winner collecting a perfect feed, beating the keeper and nothing but an empty net in front of him until an Avon Grove defender was able to position himself thus preventing what would have been the game winner.
Although the match ended in a draw, the Aces senior class displayed the leadership by embracing the Team Together philosophy and showing the younger players the importance of playing through to the final whistle.
Severini said, “We went down one nothing on an unfortunate goal. We could have easily given up, but the experience we have was demonstrated with the resiliency, grit, and skills that we showed in order to find the equalizer. It was an even game and definitely exciting match to start the season.”
Team chemistry does not appear between the white lines when the whistle blows. It’s something that comes during pre-season practice and team bonding events. One pre-season event that has become a rite of passage is when former Aces boy’s soccer coach Bob Davidson brings his group of athletes preparing for the upcoming Special Olympics to Lower Merion to train with members of the current boy’s soccer squad.
This season’s event took place Aug. 24 and featured players from this year’s varsity and JV teams who helped train members of the Delaware County Special Olympics team on technique before playing a couple of short matches.
“Playing with the group of Special Olympic athletes just motivated us to play harder,” said Tillman. “Seeing how hard they work and training them for their Special Olympic games gives us a little more to work harder and push our limits.”