by Tom Utescher
Last fall, the boys’ soccer squad at Germantown Friends acquitted itself well in two tournaments at the end of the season. In their own Friends Schools League play-offs, the Tigers lost 1-0 in the semifinals to Shipley School, which would go on to win the championship for the third year in a row.
In the Pennsylvania Independent Schools tournament, GFS upset Inter-Ac League runner-up Episcopal Academy in the opening round, then succumbed 2-0 in the quarterfinals to second-seeded Malvern Prep.
As the Tigers began their 2016 preseason training a few weeks ago, they were missing more than half of the players who were on the varsity roster a year ago. Andrea Berghella, Steven Hamel, Felipe Sanz, and Silas Shah graduated, and six underclassmen from last fall’s line-up decided not to return to the soccer pitch.
Fortunately, the Tigers return some key components of their defensive unit, 6’5″ goalie Pietro Berghella (Andrea’s brother and now a junior), and senior co-captains Jeremy Berman and Ray Hill-Cristol. Their fellow seniors are also seasoned athletes, speedy winger Noah Gansallo and midfielder A.J. Mowafi, a skillful, accurate long server.
Also back is a major impact player on the offensive end, junior Isaac Myran. Another 11th-grader, David Harvey, is also back from a year ago, and classmate Peter Gard and Max Seldin have moved up onto the varsity. The only freshman who was a full-time varsity player throughout the 2015 season was Sam Webber, and he’s also returning for the Tigers.
This fall, his 10th-grade varsity colleagues are Elliot Barr, Wiley Corlett, Jackson Craig, Gray Palmer, and Jacob Sternberg-Sher. So far, fifth-year GFS head coach Sam McIlvain has been impressed with freshmen Aidan and Liam Kleitz, Nolan Grady, and James Hobbs-Pifer.
In addition to a largely familiar coaching staff, there is a new addition from Washington State, Jordan Clark. He comes from a club soccer background, and is currently coaching with the FC Europa organization.
Some early outings for the Germantown Friends franchise just before and after Labor Day indicated that the Tigers have a decent chance of duplicating the defensive effort that only yielded four goals in FSL competition last fall. For the second year in a row, they battled to a 0-0 standoff with Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, and they were nipped 1-0 last week by another Inter-Ac League club, Germantown Academy, which got a first-half goal from Harrison Combs.
Coach McIlvain foresees three or four other teams within the Friends Schools League alone that should give the Tigers a good run, so just making it into the four-team league tourney isn’t liable to be a cakewalk.