RICHMOND, Va. — The Benedictine varsity soccer team reached a level of success this season that it has not seen in a long time. Head Coach Daniel Gill led the Cadets to their best record in recent memory. The Cadets started their season hot, going unbeaten through the first 10 games. They were somewhat held in check, however, toward the end of the schedule. The Big Green finished with an impressive record of 10-3-3.
Benedictine had good performances in many important games this year, with none better than when they faced the Saints and the Titans. No matter what sport, whenever the Cadets square off against St. Christopher’s or Trinity, it is a huge game. Benedictine holds both schools’ athletic programs in high regard, and therein lies some great rivalry fodder. Both the Saints and the Titans are consistently superior at soccer, and this year was no exception.
Benedictine tied both teams during their regular season matches. Until recently, the Cadets had trouble even competing with these mighty programs. Coach Gill said, “Tying teams that we used to lose to regularly by five or six goals is indicative of how far we’ve come.”
The chemistry and camaraderie of the Benedictine team is a big part of why the team was so successful this year. “It’s really been a fun season playing with all my boys,” said senior Colin Pinotti. “I’m going to miss them.”
Benedictine’s leadership was a key to the Cadets’ success this year. The senior captains were twin brothers Jack and Reed Miller, Nathan Howerton and Ben Marks. These seniors played together on varsity all four of their years at the school and have improved dramatically. Not only has this quartet improved, but the whole team has gotten much better over the past few seasons. The seniors did an excellent job leading the younger players during practice as well as in the games.
The young players who have joined the team were a big reason for Benedictine’s success. Included in this group were such stalwarts as sophomore transfer Joe Hopler, returning sophomore Anthony Gambardella and freshman Gavin Team. Hopler and Gambardella started on defense, and Team added a boost on offense. These players brought a spark that the team lacked in previous seasons. “One of the reasons we are better this year is the freshmen and transfers,” noted Marks.
Every successful team works hard in practice. If a squad has effective practices and everyone on the team is giving 100 percent on every rep, it is likely the team will do the same in the games. This certainly was the case for Benedictine this season. The players took their practices to the next level, and it translated to good performances on the field. “All practices have been great,” said Marks. “Our drive in practice has been a lot better.”
The Cadets’ defense was stellar all season, and its stinginess started with its goalkeeper. Senior Gardner Campbell was solid between the pipes this year for Benedictine. He gave up zero goals in three games this season, which all resulted in wins for the Cadets.
Having made the playoffs for only the second time in the last 10 years, the Cadets took things further, defeating Norfolk Academy at home in their opening-round match. This was Benedictine’s first home playoff game in 12 years, and it was an electrifying matchup. The game came down to penalty kicks. Campbell was stout in goal as he stopped Norfolk’s last penalty-kick attempt to clinch the game. Benedictine students rushed the field in celebration of Benedictine’s first playoff win in 20 years.
Benedictine’s magical season came to an abrupt ending with a disappointing 4-0 loss to last year’s state champion (and this year’s top seeded) Collegiate during the second round of the playoffs. Collegiate was the Cadets’ kryptonite this year, beating Benedictine twice by a combined score of 9-0. Despite the lackluster finish to the season, the players remain optimistic about next season. As does Coach Gill, who noted, “This is a group that just loves playing soccer.”
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