Ardmore >> Nico Severini has seen his teams do special things throughout his 10-year tenure as head coach of the Lower Merion boys’ soccer program. Just when he thought he had seen it all, this year’s team managed to play a season to remember.
Lower Merion (21-2-1) recorded the second most wins in one season in program history (21); won their first Central League championship since 2013 and advanced to the state tournament for the first time since they won the PIAA District 1 4A championship in 2010.
Shortly after the final horn sounded in Lower Merion’s heartbreaking 2-0 loss to LaSalle College High School in the PIAA Class 4A state quarterfinals Nov. 9, the sense of disappointment surrounded the Aces’ sideline like the chill in the air that night. But despite falling short of their ultimate goal, the Aces had a season to remember.
“It was a great year and one to remember for years to come,” said Severini. “What most struck me was the chemistry and cohesiveness of this group. The team displayed a great attitude and came to train and play every day with the positivity and determination that very few teams ever get to achieve.”
Always preaching the Team Together philosophy, Severini knew success would come only if they played as a team and focused on one match at a time. Anchored by a strong defense, the Aces allowed their defense to create a strong offense and posted an unbeaten regular season.
With a roster filled mainly with underclassmen and only five seniors, the Aces remained poised and composed, thanks in large part to seniors Evan Goodman, Phillip Monos, Owen Barat, Selassie Berhane and Jason Ren.
“Although we didn’t have many seniors this year, Coach Severini liked to say their high quality mattered more than the quantity and I think that says it all,” said junior Will Pitonyak. “The two senior starters, captains Evan Goodman and Phil Monos, really helped our team on the field with their play as the great players they are, but also because of their past experience that no one else really had on the team. The seniors as a whole meant a lot to the team by leading by example during the whole year in everything they did on and off the field, keeping everyone focused on our goals and always being there for the team.”
“I tried to keep the team connected by showing them that no individual is bigger than the team, everyone on the roster holds an important role,” said Monos, who will be playing soccer at Franklin & Marshall next fall. “I also tried to show the younger guys that the little things are important, from thanking the coaches for setting up the cones, to being respectful to our opponents.”
Heading into the district playoffs following an unbeaten regular season, the only thing Severini had not seen yet was how the team would respond to adversity. Following a gut-wrenching overtime loss to Boyertown in the District 1 4A semi-finals, Severini saw his team rebound in fine fashion defeating Conestoga to claim third place in Districts.
In the opening round against District 11 champion Emmaus, the Aces withstood the Hornets attack to escape with a 1-0 win.
With only memories left from this season, the seniors say farewell while the rising underclassmen look forward to adjusting to their new roles and creating new memories.
“I think the main things the seniors taught me was the importance of leadership, and that everything we do matters, even the small things, especially in the high school setting,” said Pitonyak. “As a senior you have to lead by example in everything you do because underclassmen and everyone in the program looks up to you and will follow after your lead. The captains did a great job of enforcing our ‘Team Together’ attitude and always staying positive, especially in the hard times, which I hope to do next year for the team.”
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