By Laura Amato
The whistle blew loudly, echoing across the field at Alley Pond Park, and the Archbishop Molloy boys soccer team kept running. And running.
Of course, for Molloy, this is par for the practice course. The Stanners stepped onto the field at 7:30 in the morning and, as soon as that first whistle sounded, started running. They didn’t stop for almost three hours.
It’s exhausting work, but as this year’s squad knows, it’s what it takes to win a championship.
“Everyone is running, everybody is giving their all,” senior midfielder Tim Deliyannis said. “We’re just trying to make each other better because we’re all kind of fighting for position. It’s not easy, but it’s good, too, because we’re working hard and getting ready for our season.”
The Stanners return a handful of seniors from last year’s CHSAA Class AA city championship squad, but also lose a good chunk of last season’s scoring and defensive leadership.
That’s why they’re running.
They’re running to get ready, to get in condition for a season that, they hope, won’t be over for several months.
“They have to know the intensity of it,” Stanners coach Andy Kostel said. “They have to know how to get to that point. There was a lot of resiliency in that team, so this year has to be resilient.”
Of course, there’s more to being prepared than just running end-of-practice sprints.
Molloy is out on the field six days a week and while the running is a consistent component of each day, the squad also stages skill drills and even spends one day doing yoga.
“It doesn’t stop in August,” Kostel said. “We do a lot of work because we want to make sure that the kids’ bodies are balanced. It’s worked out well for the kids.”
Last year’s championship squad boasted one of the deepest and most talented senior classes in the entire city and, this fall, the loss of nearly 20 multi-year starters is a hurdle Molloy needs to jump quickly.
“We’ve got a lot to live up to, but Molloy’s been doing this for 40 years straight,” senior midfielder Dante Giraldi said. “All we’ve got to do is keep pushing each other and that’s what we’ve been doing so far.”
Despite clinching the city title over Fordham Prep in dramatic fashion last year, on Jesse Rodrigues’ double-overtime goal, the Stanners fell 3-0 to Chaminade in the state semifinals.
Because of that, this year’s Molloy squad is running with a bit of a chip on its shoulder.
“We definitely want to defend our title,” said senior Kyle Hoffman, who tallied the game winning goal in the city semis last year. “We want to represent the name we’re wearing. And we know we’ve got a lot to live up to. It’s all about the heart, the dedication and really just keep playing as hard as we can.”
The Stanners know there’s a fairly large target on their backs this fall, but it’s a badge the squad wears with pride. Molloy is coming for another championship and the team is ready to run towards that finish line.
“I think it’s what differentiates Molloy from other schools,” Deliyannis said. “We’re practicing really hard. It’s just that little extra.”