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What I learned from playing soccer

Oliver Svenburg ’23 and Kiernan Mulcahy ’23 chilling after a WCAC Championship

At Gonzaga, we come in as boys and are sculpted and molded to come out as men for and with others. We, as students, are brought here to learn not only subjects but valuable lessons, and I learned a lot through the soccer program. From freshman year through my sophomore covid year,  junior defeat, and, finally, a senior championship, I learned so much through coaches and players.

My freshman year was an interesting one for me. The team was coached by Mr. Patrick Sullivan and Mr. Kevin Tarpey, who was in his rookie year here on Eye Street like the other first-year students. I remember being mad this year about being on the freshman team because I felt like I should’ve been on JV, but I didn’t let that set me back. As the season went on, I learned the freshman team was better for me as I created bonds with many players I played with until our senior year ended this season. I learned that sometimes what you think is best for you is only sometimes best for you. Coach Tarpey especially knew to put me in my place as a freshman as I liked to chirp him. That season, we won every game except for our season-ender against Georgetown Prep, which was a bittersweet end to a fantastic season. 

My sophomore season went differently than planned. Covid came in, and there were a lot of restrictions, including no tryouts for soccer and no championships either. The soccer program decided to have sign-up sheets for games, and they did a V1 and a V2 team. That season I learned patience, whether through waiting for protocols before games or having weeks between games. I remember when Mr. Scott Waller, the varsity coach, talked to me after a game against Bishop O’Connell. He pulled me to the side and told me I needed to keep my cool and stay calm on the field because I was getting into a heated battle with one of their players. Although that season wasn’t a “real” season by my standards, it still helped mold me into who I am.

Junior year, I made varsity and even started many games, but that season ended in heartbreak. Some questionable calls by officials at St. Alban’s and officials against Bishop O’Connell ended the season with sorrow. Even though that season ended with sadness, it was where I learned to create memorable bonds with a lot of the players. I still remember when the team went to Colorado for the Jesuit Classic, and I stayed in a host house with Captain Aidan Rafferty, class of 2022, and current senior Matthew Maier. I learned to make genuine connections with Raff and Maier in that place. Whether it was the late-night talks we had or the ATV rides on the host families’ estate, we created strong connections. Even apart from that, I created strong bonds with the players on the team, as many of them I played with freshman year, and it created chemistry for the season to come.

Oliver Svenburg ’23 against Bishop McNamara

My senior season cannot be described with just a few words, but if it could, it would be what Mr. Adrian Oryshkevych said one game, “incomprehensible.” This season was incomprehensible; I could not imagine an ending to my high school career more perfectly than this one. I learned to be resilient this season. Plenty of times, we would go down in the first half or be tied, and if it was at home, everybody knew when we faced the Walmart side of the field that it was game over. We learned to fight as a team and never give up, which has much to do with winning the WCAC and state championships. Although I had a bittersweet end to this season because I tore my ACL and Meniscus in the final, the team came through for me. They won so that our legacy in the program would be remembered, and that’s something I’ll always cherish.

The Gonzaga Soccer Program has helped me learn so much, and I want to thank a few people I haven’t mentioned. First, Mr. John Gardner, the assistant varsity soccer coach, trained with me early so I was the best player for myself and my teammates. I also wanted to thank Mr. Devin Leary, JV soccer coach, who helped ignite the fire and passion in us at halftime when we were down. Furthermore, I wanted to thank Mr. Mike Formant, class of 2013 and goalkeeper coach, who made me feel welcome and was a friendly voice to talk to and laugh with. Lastly, I’d like to thank Mr. Jonathan Ruano, JV soccer coach, who pushed me when I wouldn’t play well. He would tell me what to do better, allowing me to play at my highest level. I could never ask for more than what this program allowed me to learn and accomplish.


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