Soccer alums hope to start new tradition

By Tom Fox - For Times Leader | November 28th, 2015 6:19 pm

KINGSTON — Not even a cold November rain could dampen their spirits.

There were hugs. High-fives and pats on the back.

Some pulled each other aside to catch up. Others shared jokes and busted on each other.

Really, for soccer alumni of four local high schools, it was about getting together for old time’s sake.

Graduates from Wyoming Seminary, Wyoming Valley West, Lake-Lehman and Coughlin gathered Saturday morning at Nesbitt Stadium with the hopes of starting a new tradition.

It was the first Wyoming Valley Conference men’s soccer alumni game.

“It’s good to get people from our soccer community back together, especially some of the older guys. It’s definitely fun,” Lake-Lehman grad Kevin Konicki said. “It’s a good opportunity to see some of my former teammates. Some of them you only see once a year at our own alumni game.”

The scoreboards weren’t turned on at Nesbitt Stadium, although the goals still counted.

There were no officials. Rather, it was like school-yard rules – call the fouls and penalties yourself.

There was no bracket. Instead, short pool-play matches to make sure each school had the chance to face off with each other.

“We are just looking to get some of the guys back together that we haven’t played with in a long time,” Valley West’s Aaron Littzi said. “We have friends on the other schools, so it’s going to be nice to catch up with them as well.”

According to Stephen Molitoris, a Seminary graduate and one of the event organizers, the idea has been floated around for the past few years.

The notion came about at the school’s alumni game.

Yes, it was nice to get together with your fellow classmates and school’s grads. It was fun to catch up and see what direction life was taking them.

But what if you put on the old “jersey” again against teams from the WVC?

“These schools have been having alumni games on their own. Now, it’s a chance to catch up with some of the other local athletes and have the schools play against each other one more time,” Molitoris said. “This is a perfect time because you can maximize the people who come home for the holiday. It’s going to be fun. Myself and a few of the guys from the different schools play pick-up matches regularly. So they went back to their schools and contacted their alumni directors about getting a team together. We are thankful that Wyoming Seminary was gracious to allow us to use their facility.”

OK, so they weren’t actual “game” jerseys like they used to wear.

Yet, it was easy to tell which school was represented.

Coughlin donned its normal red. Lehman put on black t-shirts with yellow writing. Seminary’s alumni wore baby blue, similar to North Carolina. And Valley West had white with maroon lettering.

“This is more of a dry run this year; to see how it goes,” said Coughlin’s Eugene Burke, who also helped organize the event. “I know there were a few more schools that expressed interest. Hopefully, we can organize something next year and have it benefit a good cause. For me, it’s great. It’s an opportunity to play with some of my former teammates and kids that I played with when I was younger. I’m actually surprised that we got this many in such a short time.”

Yes, the pick-up matches were spirited with a lot of laughter.

Even when the opposition scored, you can see both teams congratulate the player.

On this day at least, the score really didn’t matter much.

“I think this is something we can continue to grow,” Molitoris said. “I know I talked with people from Dallas who were interested, and they just couldn’t logistically get together for today’s date. Hopefully, we can get bigger each year. Just calling everyone to see if there was any interest, it was great. Even if they couldn’t come to play today, it was nice to catch up with them and see how things were going in their life. Today is a great moment for everyone here.”

Former Wyoming Valley Conference boys soccer players hold an alumni game at Nesbitt Stadium on Saturday. Wyoming Valley Conference boys soccer players hold an alumni game at Nesbitt Stadium on Saturday. Submitted photo

By Tom Fox

For Times Leader