Bellarmine’s Varsity Soccer team (10-4-1, 6-3) reached the halfway point of its contention for the WCAL League crown on February 2nd after losing to Saint Ignatius College Prep 2-0 in San Francisco. Despite the small setback and their second loss to Saint Ignatius, members of the Bellarmine varsity team took time away from their busy post-game work ethics to reflect on the season’s current success and possible team improvements in the near future.
Connor Brady ‘17, two-time varsity captain and WCAL’s 2016 Midfielder of the Year, shared his thoughts on what he thought made this year’s squad different from his past years. “Last year we relied on a lot bigger and more athletic forwards like Dylan Carruba ‘16 and Marte Formico ‘16,” said the senior. “This year we don’t exactly have the size or physicality as last year, however; I think that forces us to play on the ground a lot more which is good.”
Bellarmine graduated over 16 seniors last year, five of whom went to play at NCAA D1 powerhouses such as UC Davis and Santa Clara University while others joined D3 programs like Chapman U and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The large number of experienced seniors last year allowed the team to clinch the WCAL title, reach a CCS Open Division Semifinal finish and earn 23rd place in Top Drawer Soccer’s National Winter FAB 50 rankings. The mass exodus of graduating seniors last year, however, resulted with this year’s team to have 50% juniors unlike last year’s varsity squad which consisted of 27% of the team as juniors. However, Brady stated, “Last year was much more individualistic. There were a lot more cliques I’d say last year. This team I think all hang out together so that helps with our performances.”
The Bells enter the halfway point of WCAL in second place tied with Serra behind St. Ignatius with six wins and three losses. The Bells’ offense have produced as Chase del Biaggio ‘17 and Brian Hayes ‘17 help lead the frontal attack by scoring over 7 goals in league as a pair while centre backs Cole Hackett ‘18 and Camron Haynes ‘18 assisted the defense concede only 10 goals.
Overshadowed sometimes by their upperclassmen counterparts, the two sophomores – Jake Rhodes ‘19 and Blaze Strangio ‘19 – on varsity work hard to establish a presence on the Bellarmine soccer team. Blaze described his varsity experience so far as very positive and enlightening. He stated, “I have played with a lot of juniors on the team before. The seniors and the captains are really nice. They help me grow as a person.”
Because of the sufficient number of games played in league, Prep2Prep determined in its first round of predictions that the Bells would be a high-seed in CCS Division 1. All-League honorees and senior captains like Bennett Antes ‘17 and Connor Brady, however, believe that this year’s team can qualify for the Open Central Coast Section if the Bells complete league sweeps against Archbishop Mitty, Serra and Valley Christian. Brady stated, “I think it’s going to come down that no matter who we play, we have to play simple and keeping it simple.” He reminiscenced of Bellarmine’s heartbreaking loss to Watsonville in the CCS Open Semifinals at Los Gatos High School last spring when the Bells had several huge chances, but lost the game 1-0.
In many ways, both Blaze Strangio ‘19 and Connor Brady ‘17 attribute to their developments in soccer to their club experience, but also to their high school coaches – former Women’s World Cup Champion Brandi Chastain and Bell alum Conor Salcido – who promote knowledge of their sport in a Bellarmine-minded fashion. Blaze stated that Brandi is “knowledgeable” while Conor stated “It’s two different experiences from two vastly different people.” He continued, “You have Conor – on one hand – who went to Bellarmine so he can definitely relate to what we are going through academically [while] Brandi has more professional opinion. She talks about her experiences in the World Cup and the Olympics and it’s pretty amazing to have a coach like that come to practice everyday.”
Even if Bell Soccer 2017 falls short of a CCS title, Connor absolutely believes that next year’s group will make a very promising team. Without a doubt, however, both veterans like Connor and first-year varsity footballers like Blaze will attempt to imprint the legacy of Bellarmine’s 2016-2017 soccer team on the banners in the basketball gym. Blaze discussed that he is happy that high school has given him opportunities of development and fun that club soccer could not offer. He believes that regardless of results, Bellarmine soccer has given him a greater purpose. He concluded “At club, I have a lot more sophomore friends on it. I’m one of the more bigger kids on that team so playing on the high school team is a lot more hard because the players are sometimes way stronger. Playing on high school is very fun because you get to play with your friends everyday.”