by Pete Janny, Contributor
Only a small percentage of soccer players are in a position to receive a college education while living out their dream as Division I student-athletes. Not only is a penchant for the sport instrumental in these players’ progression, but there are other obvious factors that have propelled their ascent up the soccer ranks. These individuals possess undeniable talent, an admirable work ethic and the mental toughness required to manage any kind of adversity they may confront.
The neophytes of the Manhattan College soccer programs share many of the same requisite attributes as the elder statesmen of their respective teams; they are cut from the same cloth and are of the same breed. Their credentials have afforded them the privilege to don the green and white.
Between the men’s team and women’s teams, the soccer program has welcomed 11 new faces who hail from a wide array of places as close as Mohegan Lake, N.Y. to as far as Duisburg, Germany. On the men’s side, Thomas Hitchins, Simon Busch, James Cotter, Rome Young, Luka Rudovic and Louis Boulben are the newest additions to head coach Jorden Scott’s flourishing program. On the women’s side, Olivia Maldonado, Eve Montgomery, Kaitlyn Hogan, Bri Floyd and Kim Mains have arrived in Riverdale to help fortify last year’s MAAC runner-up.
According to a few players, the family atmosphere that pervades campus has helped ease their transition from high school to the collegiate level. This sense of belonging is especially palpable when the players are bonding with their fellow athletes.
“The athletes are like a community inside another community and that’s really great,” said midfielder Eve Montgomery.
Defender Olivia Maldonado echoed similar sentiments and discussed how she relishes the added attention that comes with being an athlete at Manhattan.
“Meeting all the other athletes and being a part of a big group like this in college has been really cool,” said Maldonado. “People know who we are as we all try to reach a goal together.”
The sense of family and fellowship that is ingrained in the individual team cultures has helped nurture their development as players.
“We are able to form a family here and you stay with each other the whole time,” said midfielder Thomas Hitchins. “It’s enjoyable to be with each other, work hard with each other, and win with each other.”
The impact is not just limited to what their teammates have to offer.
“The coaches as well take good care of us and give us good [opportunities] to live a good life here so they are also doing a good job of being our mentors,” said defender Simon Busch.
Montgomery and Maldonado can attest to being a part of a team that encourages them to improve everyday.
“Everyone on the team takes us under their wing and I know personally a lot of people pick me back up,” said Montgomery.
Maldonado voiced her praise for the unselfishness of her team’s captains.
“Everyone is very helpful, especially the captains,” said Maldonado. “They are always there for you even though they are seniors, they still staying close to us freshmen. If you make a mistake they are always going to encourage you instead of bring you down.”
In order to excel on the Division I level, a player must showcase exceptional physical and technical abilities. According to the players, the physical aspect of the collegiate game has required a little getting used to.
“Everyone is definitely bigger than what we are used to,” said Maldonado.
Hitchins cited the age disparity as the reason why the physical element has been more challenging.
“Because you’re coming in 18 years old playing 22 or 23-year-olds in some cases,” said Hitchins.
This influx of talented youth has provided the Jasper soccer program with hope that the future will be prosperous. If everyone is as exhilarated as Busch is for his new opportunity, then both teams will be better off.
“It’s a busy schedule as student-athletes, which is a good thing because you never get bored,” said Busch.
With the careers of the freshmen members of the soccer programs just underway, the Manhattan soccer fans will not be bored anytime soon.