By Laura Amato
St. Francis Prep boys soccer coach Franco Purificato doesn’t like the phrase rebuilding. So he’s not using it to describe his squad this year.
The Terriers aren’t rebuilding. They’re doing something a bit more difficult. They’re trying to find some balance.
St. Francis Prep is a young team this fall, bringing up several sophomores who they hope will have an immediate impact on the field. But while the youth factor is a key component of the Terriers’ makeup this season, the group also boasts a handful of returning players who want to close out their final high school season with a city title.
If St. Francis Prep can find a balance between all of that, Purificato is certain, his team can compete.
“We have a lot of real quality sophomores coming up and a lot of talent,” Purificato said. “I really think we can compete and be there in the end.”
Although it hasn’t been easy to find that middle ground between youth and experience, the Terriers have a serious advantage on their side. They’re a family—literally.
St. Francis Prep boasts several pairs of brothers on this year’s roster, including several sophomore and senior duos, and that kind of off-field chemistry has been key during early-season practices.
“It feels amazing because winning is just going to make it that much more special,” said senior sweeper Sheldon May, whose younger brother Jordan is also on this year’s roster. “We have to play as hard as we can and do our thing. That’s all we can do.”
Purificato spoke to each and every one of his sophomore call-ups before the start of the season this year, making sure that they were confident heading onto the field.
He needs his players to attack—no matter what age they are—as they look to snap a recent scoring struggle that has become an unwelcome tradition at St. Francis Prep.
“The sophomores have to not play scared,” Purificato said. “Know you can play and do the same thing you do normally. Don’t worry about these guys being bigger than you or stronger than you. Hopefully we can just go with that.”
The Terriers seniors have also done their best to snuff out any preseason nerves, stepping into a vocal leadership role that has helped create some much-needed team unity.
“I remember when I was a sophomore I also made varsity and I looked up to the seniors,” midfielder Mariopio DiPasquale. “I wanted to be like them one day. So I think it’s kind of our job to set the example for them.”
The Terriers know that nothing will be easy this fall—whether it’s finding on-field chemistry or competing against some of the top soccer teams in the city.
St. Francis Prep dropped a disappointing 1-0 loss to cross-borough rival Archbishop Molloy in last year’s CHSAA Class AA semifinals.
It’s not the first time the Terriers have come up short of their ultimate goal, but this year the squad is certain, if they can find some balance on the field, they can contend.
It’s not rebuilding. It’s simply the start of a new season.
“We’re all a family here,” DiPasquale said. “We joke around, we have fun. But we also know when we have to work. I think we all really do push each other to get better every day.”