A crimson sea of Redwood students crowd around the fence at Marin Catholic, anxiously holding their breath. The boys’ varsity soccer team has just scored all five of their penalty kicks in the penalty shootout against the Wildcats on Feb. 10 during the MCAL championship game. A Marin Catholic player slowly makes his way to the box and looks at Redwood senior Carson Gilley, who is guarding the goal.
The shooter winds up to kick, strikes the ball and Gilley makes a diving save across the goal. The Redwood fans scale the fence, stampeding the field to celebrate with their team. Redwood has just become the MCAL champion for the first time in over three years since the team defeated Tamalpais High School in the fall of 2014.
Varsity coach Dave Siracusa had been confident since the start of the season that his team was capable and deserving of winning the MCAL title this year.
“From our record it looked like we ran away with the league, but it wasn’t like that. Every game was a dog fight. Our goal was MCAL and section [NCS], so we got halfway there,” Siracusa said, referring to his team’s loss to Richmond High School in the semi-finals of the NCS playoffs on Feb. 21.
According to Aaron Schten, a senior and four-year varsity player, a contributing factor to his team’s MCAL victory this season was the league’s lower caliber of talent in comparison to his freshman year in which the team achieved their 2014 victory.
“My freshman year, I think MCALS was at the highest level that it’s been in my four years. Every team was super good and we were the best that we have been in my four years,” Schten said.
Sophomore Stan Gaither, a first-year varsity player, characterized the overall season as successful directly following his team’s heartbreaking defeat in the game against Richmond.
“We’ve had an awesome season and it sucks that it had to end right here. We had great senior leaders who took us far, and a big sophomore class that gave us a boost of energy,” Gaither said.
Siracusa echoed Gaither’s sentiment about the quality of the senior leadership this year. He credits them with much of the team’s success this season.
“Eamon Rogan and Brian Diaz were fantastic captains. They both lead by example, and the rest of the seniors were great too. Some of them didn’t play that much, but they were at practice all the time, really giving it their all,” Siracusa said.
He said his team’s unwavering commitment and attendance.
“This is ski week, and we had 23 of 25 people at practice, which is pretty cool.”
The team chemistry this season was strong and contributed to their success on the field. With nine seniors and nine sophomores, there was a strong influence of both young and old that kept the team balanced, according to Gaither.
Siracusa noted the positive environment that the team had created this season, but also credited their success to their sheer talent.
“Every team has a different personality and this personality made me want to come to practice,” Siracusa said. “But if you want to know why we’re successful, it’s because they are highly skilled and super competitive, and they all want to get better.”
Despite a few clerical errors that resulted in the team forfeiting three of their early games, they only tasted true defeat twice: one loss against Terra Linda in league play and a second loss against Richmond in NCS. Following that game, the team entered and won a bid to go compete in the NorCal state tournament, but lost in their first game against Bella Vista High School when they played in Sacramento.
“We were great from the outset,” Siracusa said. “We were really good and we just held it. I think what they improved at was their focus and their desire to win.”
Schten said that the fun, relaxed and committed team environment not only made the boys successful from a bystander’s perspective, but also led the team to have an overall enjoyable experience this fall.
“We had a team that wanted to compete for each other, and play for each other and play with each other,” Schten said. “Going out to practice should be fun because you’re hanging out with your friends and it makes people want to come out.”