Bone-chilling wind didn’t stop Our Lady of Good Counsel High School soccer players — past and present — from playing in the annual post-Thanksgiving alumni soccer game.
Six current men’s soccer players and about 20 of the program’s alumni from the private Catholic school in Olney gathered on Baumgartner Field at noon on Saturday to continue the tradition of alumni soccer players challenging current players to a match.
The men’s soccer game was followed by the women’s game at 3 p.m. and a post-holiday feast at the end of the day.
This year’s alumni coach, Kevin Eckert, helped resurrect the alumni soccer game that began in the mid-1990s when he graduated in 2006 with the “Whammy 7” — Class of 2006 graduates Kevin Arnsberger, Misha Simon, Spencer Smith, Jared McGrath, Frank Lozupone and John Haltiwanger. The nickname came from their love of saying “Whammy!,” from the movie “Anchorman,” after scoring goals, Eckert said.
For the past six years, Eckert said the group challenges the Good Counsel varsity team in a “battle of wills, muscle and desire to win.”
“It has been a great way to connect alumni to the current team and link up with old friends,” Eckert said. “This game has served as a great way to continue the friendships we forged on the field during our high school careers. While many people have moved to different parts of the country and world and have had various life-changing events, it is great to come together once a year and relive some of our best memories playing the sport we love.”
He also said it is a great way to settle sibling rivalries.
Frank Lozupone, 23, is a 2006 graduate of the school and helped Eckert bring the game back. He played soccer all four years, with his final three years on the varsity team. He said the annual alumni game has become a “family event.”
“I’m hoping to not pass out, and I’m hoping to just have fun,” the Pennsylvania resident said while lacing up his cleats just after a warm-up, at which former soccer stars trickled in, high-fiving past teammates and updating each other on their lives post-high school.
“It’s just a lot of fun to relive some old memories with some friends,” he added.
His younger brother, Anthony Lozupone, is a senior at Good Counsel and played on the team for the fourth year. He said this game for him was about pride.
“My brother and sister played, so I guess watching them all of the years I needed something to follow, and I guess I followed them. It was kind of just bringing the family together,” the 16-year-old said. “It’s more of a pride thing, especially for the older guys.”
Olney resident Nicholas Chaconas said his son, Nicholas, was on the varsity team at Good Counsel for three years. He played every game in his last year in 2011, which his father said was one of the best defensive teams the school had seen in the last 12 years, and now plays soccer for Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. As a parent, he said, the annual game evoked a bit of “nostalgia” to see Nicholas and his friends play together again.
“I watched my son play since he was 7 years old; it’s kind of a traditional thing. It’s good to come out here,” Chaconas said from the sideline. “How many more years are we going to see our kids play soccer together? This is probably near the end, and that’s why it’s so important.”
Chaconas said the game is about former soccer players rallying around a sport they love.
It’s about “seeing them again, playing the game that they kind of have a bond with and that they love,” he said. “Quite frankly, these kids have been doing it for more than half of their life. This is their thing. They’re doing their thing.”
Eckert said most of the people who participate grew up playing soccer together. Eckert, Arnsberger, Frank Lozupone and McGrath played together at Good Counsel for all four years and also played on the same club team, the Takoma Park Pirates, during that time.
Jude Lozupone, Frank and Anthony’s mother, said that although last year’s game drew some “old-timers” from the 1980s, this year’s game featured more recent graduates, which ranged from the classes of 2002 to 2012.
And, in the spirit of tradition, the alumni won this year’s match, 6-4.
Alumni “have the skills and the smarts. They may not have the speed and the fitness that the current players have, but they’ve got the smart plays and the skills that don’t go away,” Lozupone said.