Seton Hall’s men’s soccer team took a break from the grind of the regular season, facing the Pirates of the past in the annual Alumni Game on Friday night.
The Pirates played to a 7-4 victory over the Alumni at Owen T. Carroll Field.
Unlike past seasons, things were done a little differently this year, with the game being played during the regular season and in a more competitive setting.
“We’ve never done it in this kind of capacity,” senior midfielder Eric Lagg said. “We’ve done it in the spring, kind of a more laid back, fundraiser event, bring some families and have a barbeque. But this is supposed to be a serious game.”
And serious it was. While there were family and friends of the alumni in the stands, it was all business on the pitch. Head coach Gerson Echeverry was barking commands from the sidelines, and the intensity could be seen and heard from the players.
“They told us it was going to be a serious game, and it’s good to flip that switch we have in the mind,” said former Seton Hall forward Eliseo Giufredi, who played professionally with Spartak Moscow of the Russian League. “At the end of the day, once we step on the field, we’re not friends. You gotta play serious because if you play bad, somebody takes your spot. It’s good to be 100% serious, and then outside of the field we’re friends.”
Both Shawn Morrison and Eric Lagg, currently on the team, attested to the intensity and importance of the match.
“Those guys bring it when they come,” said Morrison.
“Even the older guys, the guys that are 50 plus, they don’t miss a beat,” said Lagg, who has one of Seton Hall’s four goals this season. “They’ll take it more personally than the guys who are twenty something. They take it very seriously.”
The alumni held their ground against Seton Hall, maintaining the same pace as the younger pirates, and creating pressure and scoring chances. It was evident that they were energized and excited to be back playing soccer.
“It’s amazing, these guys are family to me,” former Seton Hall forward Eliseo Giusfredi said. “I know these guys from when they are little, like Danny [Bartok] for example. I used to train him inside the gym. It’s a great experience.”
What stands out about this current Seton Hall team is the amount of new players on the team. After losing a large class to graduation and eligibility last season, the Pirates now have 10 freshman and 10 sophomore players on the roster. For them, learning from some former professional soccer players and college standouts is extremely valuable.
“They’re at the next step, so it’ll be great to have them speak to the younger guys,” Morrison said. “The younger guys look up to them, even I look up to them. We get to see what they’ve learned and how they’ve incorporated it into their games. It’s a big learning experience.”
After the game, Giufredi reflected on his personal experience with professional soccer and offered some advice for the youthful Seton Hall team.
“The key for this college level is not to get comfortable,” he said. “If you’re good, you gotta keep working hard because there’s always a next level. If you’re good, you have to aim at that.”
Although the game is finished and the players have gone home, the bond formed between soccer players remains. It’s not just two teams meeting up to play, it’s a family reconnecting.
“These guys, I love them,” Giusfredi said. “Even the current players, I come to training sometimes so I feel like I’ve known them for a long time. I support them, and I’m always making sure that they do things right too. We’re all a family. It’s great to see them play and play serious again. I love it.”
“It’s awesome to see that once that game is over and once school is over, and once this whole Seton Hall career ends, there’s not only an alumni network of Seton Hall graduates,” Lagg added. “There’s a very specific alumni network of soccer players. And they all have each other’s back.”
Bobby Bevilacqua can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org