On a rainy Thursday afternoon, the boys’ freshman, JV, and varsity soccer teams all gather on the field behind Gallagher Gymnasium for warmups. They all practice together, something third-year Head Coach Sal Caccavale began at the start of his tenure.
When asked if the group mentality affected how the JV teams train, Matthew Mueller ’22 said: “Absolutely. I definitely want to train harder, try and impress the coaches, and see if I can get moved up before the next year.”
Varsity captain Josh Slager ’19, who has played all four years at St John’s, agrees. “I think [the SJC soccer program] has gotten much better with the new coach, Sal. We have started to play much better, especially from last year. There were a lot of freshmen playing, and now you can see their growth.”
Brandon Daniels is one of two assistant coaches that work with Caccavale to manage all three levels of the St John’s soccer program. “It gives us a chance to basically have a relationship with the players as they go through the program, because not everybody’s prepared to step onto a varsity field whenever they come to St John’s,” he said. “So the great thing about us is, from your freshman and JV experience, we prepare you to go help us win a championship, because that’s the goal of a varsity program.”
When asked about the JV team, Daniels said: “[They’re] very good. It’s very young, a lot of freshmen and sophomores. They’re playing to try to win a spot…into the varsity team. So I think…we’re going to win a lot of games and play some very interesting soccer this season.”
Mueller agreed, saying that the team has “great chemistry. I really think we can move the ball well, and we really know each other on and off the pitch.”
Caccavale wants every player to eventually make a varsity roster. “Our first thing we needed to do was make sure…we’re the hardest working kids at this school. And we’re still in the process of making that happen, but slowly but surely it’s coming along.”
“For us, as coaches, [our goal] is to develop each kid, each player, to reach their full potential,” he said. “We had a lot of part-timers when I first got here…we have a lot of full-timers now, kids that are doing it all year long, in the weight room, out on the field, all summer long, training. I think we’re primed right now to compete to win a WCAC championship.”
The St John’s varsity team finished 4-4-1 last season and were eliminated from the playoffs after a 2-1 loss to DeMatha. However, members of the varsity team, like sophomore Masai Brown-Andrews, agree with Caccavale’s appraisal of the team’s chances.
“I think this is the year. If it’s ever gonna happen, it’s has be this year,” Brown-Andrews said.
Both the varsity and JV teams have their first league game Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Paul XI, and their first home league game on Sept. 28 against The Heights. But the match that Caccavale wants the most fans to come to?
“Yeah, it’s already in my mind,” he said. “Friday, Oct. 19, at home against DeMatha. We’ve had them on the ropes the last two years in a row, and they figured out a way, with some individual brilliance. It’s time that we find a way to put them away this year.”