The annual Men’s Soccer alumni game, which comes around every spring, is a day laden with anticipation both for current and past members of the program. It is a chance to “play against friends who had graduated and I had played with in the past,” senior Max Gatyas said. Gatyas, now a member of the alumni squad, continued, “It also meant that I got to meet alumni who I had never had the chance to meet. The program has a very rich history-whether you want to date it back to the ‘70s and ‘80s when Knox had a number of championship-winning teams, or you want to go back just a few years ago in the 2000-2011 range when the program struggled for wins, but maintained an incredible tradition of diversity, camaraderie and friendship.”
This year, however, the focus was clearly on the field. The alumni came to play, as was evidenced by the stellar play of Rich Stempinski ‘89 in goal, and of assistant coach and Knox graduate Clint Moore ‘09. Moore, in his first year with the program, brought to life the less athletic alumni squad. Moore lined up at positions all over the field, though it seemed not to matter which position he played, as he almost always could be found in the center of the action.
“It was a little weird at first,” said sophomore Charlie Harned. “We wanted the alumni to have a good time, but we also really wanted them to respect all the work the current team has put in and to show them how much we’ve improved.”
Sparked by Moore’s play, the alumni showed aggressiveness on defense and were very much able to stay in the game, as they trailed 2-1 at the half thanks in no small part to the work of Stempinski. Blocking shots with practically every bodypart available, including a rocket off the foot of freshman Bernardo Gasperazzo, which caromed off the chest of Stempinski.
In the second half, the Prairie Fire varsity team ran more of their set offense and were able to net a number of beautiful goals as they exploited the slower alumni defense. The lead swelled to 4-1 for the Prairie Fire varsity team with four minutes to go. It was at that point that the alumni decided to take the game into their own hands. As Head Coach Matt Edwards slowly subbed off his players, the entirety of the alumni team rushed the field, outnumbering the varsity team at least 2:1. After stopping several alumni advances, junior keeper Sean Dockrell was unable to handle an eight-man alumni presence in the box, and gave up his second goal of the game to pull the alumni to 4-2. It was there that the game ended, and the teams embraced at midfield.
The end result of this particular game matters little as time goes on. The game is more than just those 90 minutes on the field, said Harned, whose experience at last year’s alumni game enabled him to secure an internship with one of St. Louis’ top lawyers, an alumni of the program. Gatyas said he would certainly come back if he had the opportunity, saying, “[The alumni game] is a great way to meet with friends and get a sense of how the program is doing. This men’s soccer program has done so much for me, and I’ve had a great relationship with everyone involved, so I think coming back to visit and staying updated on the team is the best way to honor that relationship.”