By Will Edwards
This article was originally published in Issue 5, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (November 5, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.
Senior captain Pat Roche says he won’t soon forget the header he snuck past Wilkes University keeper Tim Gallagher in double overtime on Oct. 24. And rightfully so — the game-winner kept playoff hopes alive for the team heading into their final regular season game at Misericordia on Halloween.
“After I made contact with the ball, my initial thought was ‘just be toward goal.’ When I saw it was heading towards the far post, saw the defenders weren’t moving and realized it was going to be a goal, I was at a loss for words,” Roche says. “Immediately after, I was just so excited that our season still had a chance to continue that scoring the goal hadn’t set in yet.”
DeSales later defeated Misericordia 1-0 on Oct. 31 to finish the season 8-8-2, but the team would end up fifth in the Freedom Conference standings, missing out on the final playoff spot by one point.
Still, Roche’s moment was one of many for the Bulldogs that defined the 2015 season more so than their mediocre record. It was a moment that contributed to the progression and promise of a program that has now missed the playoffs each of the last four seasons.
Also among those highlights are eye-opening games against the then number one-ranked team in the country, Franklin and Marshall, who they lost to only 1-0, and against then eighth-ranked Eastern, who they tied 1-1.
“[Those games] showed that DeSales soccer is very capable of playing and competing with the best teams in the nation,” Roche says. “We played a very competitive out-of-conference schedule this year. So while it looks like we weren’t very good on paper, it doesn’t show the amount of work and effort we put into those games.
“I hope that for next year’s team, they can eliminate the little mistakes. I think that’s what will make them a very difficult team to beat.”
Heading into 2016, the program will effectively be losing only one starter in Roche. Plus, sophomore Joey Malvestuto will return to the field after his 2015 season ended before it ever began when he suffered a torn ACL on the first day of preseason practice.
Among returning players, arguably the team’s most valuable asset will be the class of 2019, which had over a handful of players see significant playing time and four of them start every game. Forward Zach Reichard led the team in goals; Michael Kirby, also a forward, led the team in assists; and Justin Habick and Max Cortina were a presence at midfield, with Habick earning the title of most minutes played on the team.
“[Justin’s] been so consistent throughout the whole year, and defensively and offensively, I think we owe a lot to him,” junior defender Mike Bamundo says. “He’s pretty much the facilitator throughout the whole team; [every play] goes through Justin.”
And whether they know it or not, Habick and his classmates have been facilitators to a program’s path upward, a program’s rebirth.
“We’ve had a rough couple of years being in a ‘win or go home’ situation, and the cards haven’t fallen in our favor,” Roche says. “Hopefully… we can turn a new page.”