The Middle School navy boys and gold girls soccer teams are champs! Both squads won their divisions in last weekend’s Baton Rouge Soccer Association tournament.
“There is an incredible amount of talent in Middle School,” says girls soccer coach James Moroney. This talent is enhanced by the positive, enthusiastic attitudes of the players. Moroney says the girls simply love to play and always play hard. For example, he says when the goalkeeper couldn’t play due to injury, another player who had never played the position gladly stepped up and did the job. He says when needed, the leading scorers willingly played defense. “Whatever is needed for the team, they were happy to do that,” he says. Fellow coach Rhys Lopiparo says she was happy for the opportunity to work with the girls. “They always went above and beyond my expectations, and I could not have asked for a better first season of my coaching career,” she says. “I am incredibly proud of the hard work the girls put in over the past few months, and I can’t wait to see how their knowledge of the game continues to grow.”
The gold team ended the season with a perfect record of 8 and 0, allowing only one goal all season in the final contest. The navy team advanced to a semi-final match, playing what Moroney considered their best outing of the season. Moroney says the girls were supportive of each other all season, helping each other develop their skills and grow in the game.
When he’s not coaching soccer, Moroney, who was a high school soccer player, can be found teaching eighth grade math. He sees coaching as a way to connect with students outside of the classroom. “It’s rewarding to see them be successful,” he says. “It’s a fulfillment of the time and hard work the girls and coaches put into the season.”
On the boys side, there was also tremendous success. The navy team won the Division I trophy. Coach and Episcopal dad Paolo Messina says this championship is especially meaningful because the boys were competing in the highest and toughest division of the tournament. The tournament includes teams from throughout the Baton Rouge region and competitions are set without regard to school size. Messina says the Episcopal squads included players who have never played soccer or haven’t played in years as well as highly competitive players who are training for the next level. He says the players really played hard with several leaders developing. “Not having the entire team for any game allowed kids to get playing time and improve their skills,” says Messina. “They meshed and played well together.” Fellow coach and recent Episcopal grad Eliott Reimann ’19 agrees. “I am extremely proud of how the team grew as the season progressed,” he says. “Not in a single game this season was our full roster present, but they never made excuses and stuck to the game plan. They played with heart, and tenacity, I couldn’t have asked for anything else.”
The navy team finished the season with five wins, two losses and one tie. The team fought through several close contests to finish the tournament with a perfect 3 and 0 record. Winning the championship was the highlight of the season. “It’s a pretty big deal,” says Messina. “This is a citywide tournament. I don’t think Episcopal has ever won the tournament.”
Messina, who is a full-time attorney, began coaching eight years ago as a way to spend time with his own children. As a high school soccer player, he always loved the game and he found he also loved coaching. He says when the opportunity arose to coach this year’s boys squad, he was excited for the chance to get involved. “It was a pleasure to watch them win it all,” says Messina.
It wasn’t only soccer fans who were excited about Middle School soccer this season. Soccer fever swept through Middle School with the trophies shared with classmates at Morning Meeting. “While what we care the most about is teamwork, effort, and character, it’s also true that those things in combination also commonly lend themselves to success,” says Division Head Mark Engstrom. “I’m so proud of our soccer teams for their recent victories. Their effort and attention to detail has led them to where they are now, and we couldn’t be happier for them and the example they are setting for those who will come after them.”