Boys soccer ends season reigning district champions, but wishing for better results in state competition

Photo+courtesy+of+Alice+Adams.

Photo courtesy of Alice Adams.

Liza Duerholz, Sports Editor

This previously ran in our December 2021 print issue. 

Despite facing countless challenges during the regular season, players stole the District XI title for the third year in a row, unfortunately falling to Abington in the first round of state playoffs.

The boys soccer team concluded their season with a record of 14-6-5. Players agree they had a “good” season overall, and that their record could have been better. The true highlight of the season was winning the districts final game against Parkland 3-1, after losing to them twice and tying once during the regular season. This is the third year in a row the boys soccer team has won districts and the second time in history this has happened. If the team wins again next year, they will have a “4-peat” (won districts four years in a row), making Emmaus boys soccer history. 

A challenge Coach John Cari saw the boys face was keeping themselves up during the intense regular season schedule when games were coming at them four times a week. Once they had the time to “refocus” before the district game, they were able to be “the team we’d hope we’d be.”

“I think the team knew what was at stake and truly wanted that win against Parkland,” Cari said. “Although we didn’t get the results against them in the regular season, the games felt close. I think the environment was high. Scoring three goals early had everyone excited… I am still very happy for them.”

Junior Zachary Bernhart found the cause of most of their losses were mental errors, or “improper execution,” and felt their record was not true to how the team played.

“Well, I don’t think our record really reflects the talent that we had,” Bernhart said. “I thought some of the games that we lost were very close, very competitive – definitely games we could have won.”

Senior Carlos Morales saw players play their best towards the end of the season when it “really mattered,” allowing them to take the win against Parkland in districts.

“I think we just had to get to play more aggressive,” said Morales. “Like as soon as we got aggressive and started playing with some heart, we just started beating all these teams and it just kind of came together.”

Senior Ryan Santos understood that the team this year was very “defensive” overall, compared to last year’s “offensive” team. In districts though, the team was able to excel in both.

“We knew we had it. We knew it was there,” Santos said. “I think once we got that first goal, like 10 minutes in or so, everyone really knew like ‘wow, we can actually win this thing.’ And I think that built on, and we were able to do even better and eventually win that game.”

Players went from earning the top spot in District XI to jumping into the first states game against Abington from District I. The team went in knowing it would be a tough match, where they would go up against good players, but with the confidence that they had a shot at winning. During the season, the team lost to Abington 2-1, a direct reflection of the end score of the states game. It is the second year in a row the team lost a states game in double overtime.

Morales and the team entered the states game nervous, and in the end, he found the ending of the season to be “unfortunate.”

“I think it was kind of heartbreaking,” Morales said. “We were happy that obviously, we won districts. We just weren’t really satisfied with the fact we didn’t get too far in states.”

Bernhart knew going up against anyone in District I would be a “real pain,” with at least one or two good players, but they believed that they “definitely had a chance against them.”

“[I felt] disbelief because I felt that the scoreline did not reflect how the game had gone and the amount of chances that we had compared to them,” said Bernhart. “I was really happy though for what we had accomplished the whole season, but disappointed that we couldn’t take it further.”

After the season, senior Jaeden Amato was named a regional All-American athlete for 2021 by the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association. He was honored to be selected as one of two defenders given the title this year and to overall be a part of the All American team.

“Receiving this award as a senior at Emmaus makes the experience 10 times better,” Amato said. “Knowing that not many defenders get picked for these kinds of awards definitely puts a smile on my face. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve something like this without the help of my coaches and teammates.”

Looking forward, after Santos graduates this year, along with the 11 other seniors on the team, he hopes Emmaus will stay at the top of the league, keep winning district titles, and one day win a state championship.

“I think we have a talented underclassmen group. I think our defense stays really strong. We had a few more attacking players too,” Santos said. “I feel like if they can bond well as a team [and] work together, I think they definitely have a shot of winning [districts a] fourth [year] in a row.”