Patience pays dividends for Shipley

Two years ago, Shipley boys’ soccer coach Thom Schauerman lost key upperclassmen in his starting line-up early in the season and was forced to look to his younger players to help Shipley stay afloat against a challenging schedule.

Starting mostly freshmen and sophomores, the Gators took their lumps but at the same time gained valuable experience that Schauerman hoped would pay dividends throughout the rest of their high school career at Shipley.

Fast forward two years and it seems like the experience has proven to be very valuable as the Gators opened the season with draws against perennial powers Chaminade (N.Y.) and Pennington (N.J.) before earning their first win of the young season against defending Inter-Ac champion and PA Independent Schools State Finalist Haverford School.

“The experience I got playing as a freshman definitely impacted me the following years,’ said junior Michael Burns. “The tempo and physicality of a high school game is something to adjust to and being exposed to that early in my high school career gave me more confidence going into big games where some may get nervous.’

Senior Connor Higgins added, “My sophomore year we lost our best player due to injury and a lot of pressure was put on myself and a few of the other younger players. It strengthened me as a player and a leader.’

Delighted with the leadership displayed by his upperclassmen, there will be a time a team will be faced with adversity and the key ingredient to a successful season is the ability to learn, put it behind and move forward.

On September 15, the Gators had their first test of overcoming adversity taking the field for the first time since a difficult loss last Friday night against Harriton. From the opening tap to the final whistle, the upperclassmen paved the way in a convincing win over Barrack Hebrew Academy.

“It was great,’ said Schauerman. “It was like Friday night never happened. We have upperclassmen that lead in their own way and it was nice to see them bounce back and stay focused. We preach one game at a time and the kids responded.’

“Having played soccer my whole life I believe the best way to overcome bad luck is to work hard during practice and focus on the next game,’ said senior co-captain Konrad Bulinowski.

Junior Josh Liss added, “We will face adversity this year. You always will in any sport, it’s inevitable. But this team has always been able to dig deep and come together against adversity. It’s no different this year.’

With a roster comprised mostly of upperclassmen combined with younger players, the Gators entered the season with high expectations knowing the road would not be easy against an always-challenging schedule.

Schauerman said, “We have a strong group of level headed upperclassmen that lead in their own way. We have some kids who are vocal and some who are a little quieter.’

“The senior captains have been awesome. Under their leadership, the team has bonded and has grown closer together,’ said Liss.

Burns added, “The seniors have taught me many lessons over the years. I hope to make sure, next year, to encourage the younger guys to respect the coaches’ decisions no matter what and always support your teammates in any way possible. Most importantly, I’ve learned from the seniors that they’re the role models and however they decide to practice or warm up will reflect the entire team’s mentality and work rate.’

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