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Seminarians and Soccer! Meet the Pontifical North American College Clericus Cup Team | Joseph Previtali |
February 28, 2007
They have everything a soccer team could want.
The veteran of international
athletic competition in goal, who uses every inch of his body and every ounce
of his energy as a mere means to frustrate the hopes of every would-be scorer;
the strategic mind and skillful play of a player/coach of European pedigree and
New Jersey toughness; the wily veteran defender from the South with two bad
ankles and a bad knee, but one huge heart, which never fails him in making the
stop on defense; the break-neck intensity of the lighting-fast renegade from
North Dakota, who once trained for the U.S. Olympic Development program; the
flashy superstar/coach from Boise, Idaho, by way of Michoacan, Mexico, who once
scored from midfield in Roman competition and who gave up a possible career in
professional soccer in Mexico to respond to the call to the priesthood; and a
supporting cast that leaves them without weakness at any position on the field.
And yet, for the Pontifical
North American College, participation in the Vatican-sponsored Clericus Cup, an
international soccer tournament for priests and seminarians in Rome, will be a
lesson in the underdog treatment to which American soccer has become
"I'm not sure who people are
talking about, but I know it isn't us," said Daniel O'Mullane, seminarian of
the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, and co-coach of the NAC soccer team, which
will play its first game of the Cup this Saturday morning against the Pontifical
Urbanian University. "I don't mind surprising people right up until the
day we are playing for the trophy. Hopefully we'll be the talk of the town a
month or so from now when we have played a handful of games."
Deacon Josh Waltz, a
four-year starter at defender from the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota,
echoes his rookie coach's underdog sentiments.
the United States gives us a bit of an edge," said Waltz. "Given the present state of affairs in the USA concerning soccer,
most teams will no doubt consider us the underdog. This tournament gives us a
great opportunity to show the world that the USA is a competitor in the soccer
world, even though it will be on a small scale. The USA soccer program is not exactly at a highpoint, so anything that we do
can only help it."
The NAC has had a soccer
team for many years, and in past years they have played several games
throughout the academic year against various seminary colleges in Rome. But
the Clericus Cup provides a whole new level of competition for the American
"I think that there is some
pressure on the NAC to represent our country well, especially as this cup
receives more and more international press," said Deacon Aaron Killips, a
fourth-year defender from the Diocese of Savannah, GA, who anchors the stifling
NAC defense. "I don't think that there is a big pressure to win, but we
certainly hope to show others that Americans can play the world's game and play
But there is one member of
the team who knows that pressure very well. Unlike the rest of his teammates,
Deacon Andy Roza of the Archdiocese of Omaha is no stranger to the pressure of
representing his country in high-level, international, athletic competition.
Roza, who had to give up soccer after eighth grade to concentrate full-time on
curling, won bronze medals for the United States at the World Junior
Championships in 1999 and 2001. His curling career behind him, he is now in
his fourth year as the goalkeeper for the College.
"It was a thrill to have a
jacket that said 'USA' and my name on it," remembers Roza. "I've never felt so
patriotic as when I represented the country at world championships."
Indeed, patriotism is in no
short supply for the American team as they prepare to participate in the
16-team tournament, in which more than fifty countries are represented. The
NAC will, in fact, be one of the few teams made up exclusively of players from
"We are representing America
in this competition, although I don't think we'll fully realize that until we
see the patriotism of other countries," said O'Mullane. "We are certainly
seen, as are other countries represented in the tournament, as an offshoot of
our country's soccer. Unreasonable though that may be, we are excited to
represent our dioceses, college, country, and Church in this tournament."
In a very real way, then,
the NAC soccer team will be ambassadors for America to the world, at least in
the context of this international competition.
"I think American patriotism
will certainly play a major role in the Cup," said co-coach Jaime Gil of the
Diocese of Boise, Idaho. "This cup is a great opportunity to share with Rome
and the world the true virtues that represent Catholic America. Strength, fair
play and teamwork should indeed be present in our team."
Gil, who grew up in Mexico
and moved to Boise several years ago, shares coaching duties with O'Mullane.
The latter, who hails from England, has been specifically charged by his
teammates with the task of preparing America's team for the widely-publicized
tournament. O'Mullane's background in the soccer-saturated culture of Great
Britain enables him to be uniquely qualified to manage the NAC squad as they
prepare for international competition.
"The NAC used to play a type
of soccer known as 'Boot-ball,'" joked Waltz. "In this highly complex soccer
strategy, one man kicks the ball as hard as he can and the others run as fast
as they can after it and try to score a goal.
"Thank the Good Lord we now
have a coach who really cares about technique and strategy. The NAC has a new
approach to the game this time around due to the European influence of Coach
Dan O'Mullane. It is heavily weighted on the defense, with only a few outlets
to the wings and strikers. We are confident this strategy will work so long as
everyone holds his position. The focus of the Clericus Cup most heavily will be
on the defense."
O'Mullane, for his part,
sees his task as a very simple one.
"We're going to play a
soccer game tailored to the people on the team," said the first-year
coach. "I think we have a pretty good plan, which will put our players in
the place that will most help the team. We're heavily influenced by an
American style of soccer in a correlative manner. The strength of
American teams is their athletic prowess, and I don't imagine that will be
different with us.
"The men, trusting in my
ability to manage, have responded well to what I have offered, understanding
that such decisions (tactics and personnel) have to come from one person.
Again, I have to commend the players: when I am able to lay out our objectives
in a clear, precise manner the players respond diligently in attaining our
Waltz identifies O'Mullane's
contribution specifically in the areas of improved teamwork and discipline.
"The dynamic feature of the
NAC's team that will help us play well and to win will most certainly be our
ability to play as a team and to stay disciplined in regards to locking down
our positions," said Waltz, who twice led his high school team to the North
Dakota state championship game.
Gil echoes the sentiments
that discipline and game control will factor heavily in putting the NAC in
position to win.
"In our practices we have
talked much about learning to be defensive," said the second-year
sweeper/midfielder, who at age 17 was invited by the Secretary of State of
Michoacan to play for the state team. "We want to play in order starting with
a solid defense that will give security to our game, and consequently a good
control of time and space. Most of our players are in good shape and that will
create a good offensive game."
Roza sees the brand of
soccer played by the NAC as a typically American contribution to the Clericus
"As Americans we tend to be
direct and physical in our brand of play," said Roza. "Not a lot of flashy
stuff or creativity on the ball, but we play effectively as a team and run
In soccer, however,
Americans also tend to play the role of underdog. Yet, despite their underdog
status, O'Mullane likes the NAC's chances in the Clericus Cup.
"I think we stack up well
against other teams," said O'Mullane, who will also start at striker for the
NAC side. "For one, we are a very athletic group of guys. Actually,
that's been my biggest shock since coming here in the summer: the men we have
here are very gifted athletically. If we can play the way I envision we're
going to be in every game."
Perhaps their greatest advantage, however, is their obvious possession
of the all-important athletic intangibles of leadership, intelligence, and
"We have a team of leaders,"
said O'Mullane. "In that sense it is a very easy team to manage. We
understand that the same qualities it takes to lead are often the same
qualities it takes to follow, albeit in a different form.
"It's hard to get into the
specifics now and let the cat out of the bag, but we hope to play the right
way: we're focused on defense, playing as a team, playing smart and hard, and
playing disciplined soccer."
Come Saturday morning, those
intangibles will be tested in a very tangible way at the international level.
Pontifical North American College | 2007 Clericus Cup Schedule (Preliminary
March 3, 9:30AM vs. Pontificio Collegio Urbano (Field
March 10, 9:30AM vs. Pontificio Seminario Gallico (French
College) (Field B)
March 17, 9:30AM vs. Croati (Field B)
March 24, 9:30AM vs. Tiberino (Field A)
April 14, 11:15AM vs. O.M.I.
Team (Field B)
April 21, 9:30AM vs. P.U. Gregoriana (Gregorian University)
April 28, 9:30AM vs. C.I. Mater Ecclesiae (Legionaries of
Christ) (Field B)
2007 Clericus Cup Roster
Rev. Jeremy P. Leatherby,
Diocese of Sacramento
Rev. Mr. Alejandro Del Toro,
Diocese of Rockford, IL
Rev. Mr. Aaron D. Killips,
Diocese of Savannah, GA
Rev. Mr. Andrew J. Roza,
Archdiocese of Omaha
Rev. Mr. Benjamin C. Sember,
Diocese of Green Bay, WI
Rev. Mr. Joel A. Sember,
Diocese of Green Bay, WI
Rev. Mr. Joshua K. Waltz,
Diocese of Bismarck, ND
Mr. Paul J. Fasano, Diocese,
of Rockford, IL
Mr. Steven M. Titus, Diocese
of Cheyenne, WY
Mr. Jaime Gil (Coach,
Captain), Diocese of Boise, ID
Mr. David Rivera, Diocese of
Mr. Jordan R. Bauer,
Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul
Mr. James P. Melnick, Diocese
of Little Rock, AR
Mr. James F. Adams, Diocese of
Mr. Daniel P. O'Mullane
(Coach, Manager), Diocese of Paterson, NJ
Mr. Fernando A. Saenz,
Archdiocese of Santa Fe
Mr. James N. Morrison,
Archdiocese of Mobile, AL
Mr. Philip A. Smith, Diocese
of Toledo, OH
Mr. Jacob Bertrand, Diocese of
Mr. Scott D. Pogatchnik,
Diocese of St. Cloud, MN
Additional Team Support
Team Chaplain, Representative: Rev. James F. Quigley, O.P.
Equipment: Mr. Gabriel E. Acuna, Archdiocese of Chicago
Assistant Coach: Mr. Gilbert A. Tranquilus, Diocese of
Trainer: Mr. Gregory T. Rannazzisi, Diocese of Rockville
Starting Lineup | March 3, 2007 (9:30 AM) vs. Pontifical Urbanian University
Goalkeeper: Rev. Mr. Andrew J.
Roza, Archdiocese of Omaha
Sweeper: Rev. Mr. Aaron D.
Killips, Diocese of Savannah, GA
Stopper: Mr. Jaime Gil
(Captain), Diocese of Boise, ID
Left Defender: Rev. Mr. Joshua
K. Waltz, Diocese of Bismarck, ND
Right Defender: Mr. Steven M.
Titus, Diocese of Cheyenne, WY
Left Wing: Mr. James N.
Morrison, Archdiocese of Mobile, AL
Left Midfielder: Mr. Philip A.
Smith, Diocese of Toledo, OH
Right Midfielder: Mr. James F.
Adams, Diocese of Kalamazoo, MI
Right Wing: Rev. Jeremy P.
Leatherby, Diocese of Sacramento
Forward 1: Mr. Fernando A.
Saenz, Archdiocese of Santa Fe
Forward 2: Mr. Daniel P.
O'Mullane, Diocese of Paterson, NJ
Joseph Filice Previtali is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of San
Francisco. He is in his third year of theological studies at the
Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he currently resides. In
June, he will receivethe Baccalaureate of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) from
the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum). Previously,
he was sports editor and columnist for The Gonzaga Witness,
a Catholic student newspaper, which he co-founded
with his friends at Gonzaga University. He will be reporting on the
Clericus Cup for IgnatiusInsight.com and the Insight Scoop blog throughout the
course of the tournament.
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