BOYS SOCCER: SETON CATHOLIC LOOKING TO END HISTORIC SEASON WITH FIRST STATE TITLE
By ANTHONY GOSS
Broome County Sports Report
BINGHAMTON —— The 2023 calendar has turned to November, inviting early sunsets and gatherings of fallen frayed leaves. That becomes the scene at John G. Dowd Field at Seton Catholic Central High School this time of year.
But this usually tranquil visual has many more sights and sounds than the previous two decades. There’s crinkling and cracking on those leaves and the early sunsets provide a supplementary glow to the glare of stadium lights.
Amiable yet passionate shouts accompany a symphony of booms and thumps of synthetic leather and rubber balls. There is no quiet here. Instead, these sounds signal the activity of the Seton Catholic Central boys soccer team.
The Saints have finished their season at this point in recent years, but for the first time in 23 years, they prepare for their state semifinal match.
Even for the leaders of this team, that achievement started far from any expectations.
“I didn’t expect much coming off a season where we were 3-11,” senior goalkeeper Ben Moyer said. “It was just another season and let’s see what we can do with it.”
The Saints, led by head coach Alex Walsh, have dedicated the last year to changing the fabric of their team and overcoming a series of struggling seasons.
“It was challenging those first couple of years, figuring out the kids, figuring out play styles. Last year's record showed that we would lose a lot of games that weren’t really close, we couldn’t put the ball in the net,” Walsh said. “We’ve stuck to it from last November until now.”
But the Saints' accomplishments this season are no chance of fate either. Senior John Ricci, a four-year member of the varsity squad, has seen the program's and his teammates' growth.
“Being on the team for four years and being with this group of kids, you can see the difference,” Ricci said. “It shows how far we have come.”
Ricci and Moyer, the two captains of this squad, echo a sense of maturity that has ignited a shift in the program.
“We have just been taking it so much more seriously,” Ricci said. “We have a lot of kids on the team who have a lot of skill. Something that sets us apart is our ability to be a team on and off the field.”
These stronger relationships have not only made a tangible difference in the team’s results but also become a positive glaring marker for the coaching staff.
“A lot of these guys I’ve had for years,” Walsh said. “You can definitely see the improvement. These older guys the leadership role they’ve taken has been special.”
For Walsh, the choice of choosing the on-field leaders of his program was an easy one. Well-versed in the culture of Seton boys soccer, Ricci and Moyer’s leadership has proved a catalyst for the success of the team this season.
“There was really no debate when I met with the coaches,” he said. “We knew these two were going to lead us to a lot of wins and they sure did.”
Those wins came fast for Seton, winning its first six games and doubling last year’s win total before the halfway point of their campaign.
The team's efforts secured a 12-2 record and a first-round bye in the Section IV Class C playoffs. This mark signaled further to the players that the Saints were amidst a special season.
“Getting a bye was huge,” Moyer said. “I never would have thought in a million years that Seton would be a one-seed going in [to sectionals]. I thought that was really cool.”
Usually satisfied with a successful performance in its rivalry matchup with Binghamton, Seton had more to play for in the middle of October.
“Every year we just look for the Mayor’s Cup and try to win that and call it a season,” Ricci said. “But this year was something different.”
That difference became an entrance into new territory for the Saints. This meant a learning process for all involved.
“First sectional win was a new page for us. We’ve never been here before,” Moyer said. “We look to the coaches like ‘Where do we go from here?’ And they’ve done a great job of reassuring us that we got this.”
For a team that showed growth from its disappointing three-win season last year, the Saints have evolved even further through the postseason. Seton closed out the Section IV championship and its regional match in close, one-score grinds against Southern Cayuga and Fabius Pompey.
“We stick together. The way the guys get along, the chemistry on the field, the never-say-die mentality,” Walsh said. “It’s just always 100%. Every tackle, every shot, every loose ball. Everything all the time.”
The high intensity of these matchups has not only tested the Saints but also displayed their versatility in dealing with various styles and strategies.
“They are able to play in different ways which makes it easy to adapt,” Walsh said. “They notice it sometimes before I notice it.”
Experience plays a role in the surge of the Saints. The team boasts over a dozen seniors on its roster, including its two captains.
“It’s having something to play for,” Moyer said. “We have 15 seniors and we know one of these games might be our last for all of us.”
However, the success of this team boils down to more than keeping a season alive. This group wants to set a standard for the future of Saints’ soccer.
“It’s leaving a legacy,” Moyer said. “Since we won regionals we get our name on a banner. It’s something that future students can look to in a way like ‘Wow that Seton season in ‘23 is something we want to strive for.’”
Walsh, a former player and alumnus at Seton, set out plans to write that history long ago.”
“Being here from 2011 to 2015, I never got that section title as a player,” he said. “To achieve that finally is like a huge sigh of relief.”
But with a jovial mood hanging over the team this week, they embrace the challenge to expand the profile of Seton boys soccer.
“Everyone’s got something to play for now,” Moyer said. “Whether you’re a senior or the eighth grader we pulled up.”
New to this stage, Walsh hopes that plays in his team’s favor.
“Not a lot of teams have seen a team like us,” Walsh said. “That’s kind of been our mentality.”
Now at the end of its journey and the season fading like those early November sunsets, the Saints have a chance to reach the summit of New York high school boys soccer for the first time.
“The season ends this weekend no matter what,” Ricci said. “We may as well give it all we got.”
PHOTO BY ANDY YOUNG
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