Wynnewood – Prior to the Friends’ Central boys’ soccer team’s 3-0 win against visiting Westtown School Sept. 29, Phoenix head coach Galen Guindon was very excited about his squad – and for good reason.
“We have a number of individually talented players but it is the way everyone buys into playing for the team that excites me the most,” said Guindon following his team’s rain-soaked win. “So many players have sacrificed for the good of the program without batting an eye. Playing out of position or seniors coming off the bench, there is a real sense of joy in watching their teammates succeed. I wish I could take more credit but they are just a tremendous group of kids.”
In his team’s 3-0 win over the Moose, Guindon’s team-first philosophy, which the upperclassmen have been able to get the younger players to buy into, was on full display, whether it was making the extra pass on offense to create a better scoring opportunity or the defensive back line standing tall making the day easier for the keeper by not allowing many scoring chances for the opposition.
“Any league win is huge but to get it against a consistently competitive program like Westtown lets us know we are moving in the right direction,” said Guindon. “More importantly, I was pleased with the way we played. We were able to impose our style for most of the match.”
To accompany the belief in each other, another key to Friends’ Central’s early-season success has been their ability to adapt to the strategies the coach’s implement throughout the match, whether it be attacking the net or taking a more defensive-minded approach.
Leading the way has been the senior class – Matt Blackman, Asa Bell, Nolan McGrann, Matt Nguyen, Max Valenci, Chris Annas and Jake Zaoutis. They have provided the right leadership for a talented group of underclassmen – Carson Lonner, Ingram Dillingham, Liam Sullivan, Miles Johnson, Lucas McGrann, who have fallen right in step, putting team success ahead of individual triumph.
“The seniors have been unbelievable in helping me to develop as a player over the last two years,” said sophomore midfielder Carson Lonner, who put home a rebound shot with 2:10 remaining in the second half to account for the third goal. “Those guys have taught me to play within myself and have really made me feel comfortable on the field. It feels great to have upperclassmen who want me to succeed as much as I do, and I think their belief in me has been a major factor in my success.”
Nguyen said, “As one of the senior leaders, I feel that it is important for me to deliver and connect passes, as a center midfielder. Although bringing out my abilities on to field is important, being one of the older members of the team means that I have to bring the energy and the school spirit to the team. I believe that I help bring a passion and devotion to the team, along with the other seniors, by investing ourselves emotionally.
“Before the games, the other seniors and I play music and chant to get everyone up for the game. Even after the game, whether win or loss, my teammates and I come together to lift each other up. Even though I do most of the yelling to get everyone up, The Phoenix’s spirit would not be the same without everyone, because we all do our part to make this group cohesive and united.”
Fellow senior Max Valenci added, “The underclassmen have done a great job of committing to our team philosophy, on and off the field. On the field, they help us keep possession and move the ball quickly. Off the field, they’re all great guys that contribute to our team unity. It’s exciting to see them all buying in, and they certainly have contributed to the team’s success. It’s fairly unusual to have so many sophomores making an impact, and they give us much-needed depth.”