After taking a medical redshirt with Saint Joseph's last year, you've transferred to Monmouth University. A transfer process typically dates back some time so walk us through the timeline of transferring to Monmouth.
Our season at Saint Joseph’s came to a disappointing close - we failed to make the playoffs after a 3-0 start in conference. Typically, in the A-10 conference, winning 4 of 8 conference games is a guaranteed playoff spot berth, so to go from 3-0 to 3-5 and fail to make playoffs was crushing for everyone. Things just went wrong and went wrong fast - we were never able to figure them out in time to save the season. This is especially difficult to watch from the bench because, as much as you can help cultivate a positive team environment, you can’t truly help produce on the field.
Once the season came to a close, I had time to reflect on where I was in my life and who I wanted to become both on and off the field. It felt as though my life was stagnant -- that I wasn’t progressing in my soccer career and that the school itself wasn’t a good fit for me. I came to a point where I felt a change was necessary not just to progress on the field but to be happier as a person.
My roots are in the culture of North Jersey, and I wanted to come back home. So once I got my release from SJU, I began looking around at New Jersey based schools. I spoke with a few schools, but once I took my visit to Monmouth I knew this is where I needed to be. I already knew several of the guys from playing with them throughout my youth career, which made my transition much easier. The coaching staff are great. Each of them are dedicated to this program and their passion for winning is something I share. One of my best friends is recent Monmouth goalkeeper standout Eric Klenofsky, who I owe a lot to both on the field and off. He’s been a great friend and mentor for me, so getting the opportunity to follow in his footsteps is amazing. Everyone here at Monmouth has been unbelievably welcoming to me, making me feel more at home than I could ever have imagined. I feel as though I have found a place where I can truly enjoy the rest of my college career both athletically and academically.
But what I will say on the topic of transferring is this: it’s scary. You’re giving up everything that’s familiar for something altogether unknown. You’re leaving a comfort zone and pushing yourself to enter a new environment where there’s no certainty about what’s going to happen. It’s a nerve-wracking gamble. Either it’s the right move or it’s the wrong move, and if it turns out to be the wrong move, there’s no taking it back.
For me, it came down to not wanting to be haunted later in life by “what could have been.” When the day comes to hang up my cleats, I want to know that I did everything I possibly could have to chase my dream.
I think there's a perception that a player only leaves a school if they hate every aspect of that school, which doesn't seem to be your case. What stands out about your time at SJU?
Transferring was one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make so far in my life – a choice that actually kept me up at night. Over the course of two and a half years at Saint Joe’s I created friendships that I will have for the rest of my life. It was difficult to leave my teammates, because when you are on a team, your teammates become like a second family. It hurt me leaving the family and I know it probably hurt them. But I left them on the best terms possible, and they all seemed to understand that this was a choice I needed to make.
One of the biggest things that stands out to me from SJU is a funny story about my roommate, teammate and best friend Tom Santilli. Tom is from Connecticut (otherwise known as the countryside), where last summer he purchased two baby ducklings from a farm around his house. On August 11th, we report for preseason and move into our Philadelphia house, where I’m greeted by Tom and his two ducklings. In between our three sessions a day, Tom and I would go back to the house where we would take care of these two little ducklings, all preseason long. So, there I was, part-time goalkeeper, part-time step-father to a pair of ducklings.
Last we heard, you were rehabbing your foot. What's the status there and how has the detour affected your mental approach to the game, if at all?
I am (knock on wood) back to full health with my foot. As a preventative measure, I continue to take special precautions and treatments such as wearing special footwear inserts, using a bone stimulator, and taking calcium supplements, etc. The big challenge now is the mental one, of feeling confident that my foot will support me, and with each passing day of practice this confidence increases. I’ve been beyond blessed to have my athletic trainer at Monmouth, Aaron Bottinick. He’s always there for me, providing support and treatment and going the extra mile to make sure I stay healthy.
The biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from these injuries is that each day I take the field, I’ve been given a blessing. To truly appreciate something, sometimes you’ve got to spend some time apart from it. Being forced to sit on the sideline and watch others play the sport I love - although awful in the moment - gave me a deeper sense of appreciation for the game.