By Ben Gordon
On Saturday, October 19, the Byram Hills Boys Varsity Soccer team faced Keio Academy in the final game of their regular season. While it was important to end the season schedule on a high note, this game had greater meaning: it was Senior Day. Before the game, the senior players and their families were introduced on the turf. Here, the players from the Class of 2020 were honored for their lasting contributions to the Byram Hills Boys Varsity Soccer Program.
Once the ceremonies concluded, the opening whistle blew and Byram, led by a senior-heavy starting eleven, never looked back. Keio looked overmatched from the start as Byram controlled the pace of play, getting all players involved with crisp passes. Just 8 minutes into the match, Byram drew a penalty kick which Yusuf Hafez netted to give the Bobcats an early 1-0 lead. Near the 14th minute, Hafez shined again, getting past multiple defenders en route to setting up striker Nico Bisguier for an easy goal. Shortly after, senior Alex Lambos scored on a penalty kick to put Byram up 3-0 before the 20th minute struck. The defense for The Bobcats was stellar in the first half and was highlighted by great saves from senior goalkeeper Zach Malter. The boys headed into halftime with confidence and a 3-0 lead.
In the second half, Keio was able to take advantage of breakaway chances themselves but never cut the lead to less than 2 goals. The final score was 6-3 and Byram improved their regular season record to an impressive 14 wins to 2 losses. As previously mentioned, this matchup meant more than the final result; it was the seniors’ last regular season game in a Byram Hills Uniform.
Senior Captain Yusuf Hafez has been the focal point of The Bobcats’ offensive attack this fall. In his fourth season as a Varsity Soccer Player, he was given the keys to use his experiences to lead his team. Hafez has come a long way as both an athlete and a person because of the Byram Hills Soccer Program. In his freshman year, he knew his role was “more to grow as a player and listen to my teammates as they always wanted to help me improve”. Now as a senior, he knows that “…the younger kids on the team look up to [him], so [he is] always trying to set an example for them and always trying to help them improve as they are the future of the program”. In short, Hafez emphasized that his involvement came “full-circle”. Now, he is using the leadership skills provided by the captains three years ago and feeding them to the future of the program. Finally, Hafez preached that in order to be successful on the field, “we must treat every game like it is our last, no matter who our opponent is”. Also, he praised the coaching staff for doing a good job of “making our practices more competitive because after every practice, the hardest working player is given the pail, which makes everyone in practices work even harder”. Props are popular among the best sports teams in the country and it is great to see how Coach Allen and Coach Skonieczny have created a competitive and winning culture for their players.
Another senior leader, Jake Shamus, has played a crucial role this season on the defensive side of the ball. As a three year player himself, he has been involved in many situations both on and off of the field with teammates. After Saturday’s game, I asked Shamus about his experiences off of the field through the soccer team. He noted that some of the team’s favorite activities this year were to “go out to dinner or play Fifa tournaments”. Additionally, he mentioned that “bonding off the field is very important to team success on the field”. With Sectional Playoffs nearing, the defender feels that “it is important that we continue to improve and get better… each practice has to have the mentality that it may be the last so we need intensity in order to achieve our goal of winning our last game”. Look for the boys to carry their momentum into the postseason in the coming weeks. Glory to the Hills!Byram Hills Boys Soccer vs Keio Academy