As I write this, our cross-country teams are headed to Maine for the New England Championships, our football team is preparing for the Division I State Championship, and our Academy Theater cast and crew are preparing for their performance of The Addams Family. In the midst of all of this excitement and excellence, I want to pay tribute to a group of young men who filled our fall with excitement and excellence all their own: our boys' soccer team.
More than any team I can remember, this team treated each other like brothers. There was no division—no barriers caused by nationality or race, dorm or day student status, new player or veteran. They genuinely liked and supported each other, even when things were down—especially when things were down—and when they yelled "Family!" each time they broke their team huddle, I really believed it because it was true.
This team competed every second of every game. They played hard, and they played together. Part of the strong emotions I felt at the end of their championship game, which could have gone either way minus a call here or a bounce there, was the recognition that I would not be able to watch this team again. The end of the game meant the end of this team. However, I am comforted by the knowledge that, given the strength of their relationships, it was not the end of the brotherhood.
As impressive as this togetherness was, I was more impressed by how they grew during the season. Their teamwork was more cohesive, their passing crisper, their communication more constant. Their skills got better and better under the tutelage of Coach Steve Levesque, and their dominance down the stretch was a testament to their hard work. They grew not only as players and as a team; they grew as young men and leaders too.
Perhaps one of the best parts of their legacy came at the very end—even after they had received the runner-up trophy for Vermont Division I soccer. Having traveled back from Burlington, obviously emotional and down after the loss, they showed up en masse to the semifinal football game, where their fellow athletes were behind 9-7 at halftime. Behind the spirited chants led by Pablo Gonzalez Rotger, the team lifted the spirits of the crowd and the football players. Football Coach Rich Alercio credits that boost as the spark that ignited the football team's 30-0 second half performance.
These young men on the soccer team are the epitome of what is at the heart of our community: they have learned the joy and significance of being part of something bigger than themselves. They are brothers for sure. Close knit and supportive no matter what, they sacrificed themselves in struggles and success. But they are more than brothers, too; they are Hilltoppers. They rose above their own disappointment and found meaning in supporting others.
I would be remiss if I did not recognize others in our community who have been examples of these same values of teamwork, loyalty, and sacrifice—our veterans. They have modeled what it means to put others before self and have laid it all on the line to protect our freedom and values, and many have paid the ultimate sacrifice or watched comrades do so. Likewise, we have alumni around the world serving in the armed forces on active duty. These men and women are part of a tradition that has marked our school for generations, and our boys' soccer team took a step toward living out that tradition this fall. Thanks to them and all of our veterans and active service alumni for reminding us what it means to be a Hilltopper.