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MVNU’s Soccer Programs: Developing Great Athletes into Greater People

The seniors for the men's and women's soccer programs left an impeccable mark on their teams concluding the 2018 fall season.

"Don’t play for yourself - play for the guy running next to you on the field."

The men's and women's soccer seniors were shaped into who they are today through their experiences as student-athletes. They shared how leadership has led to success in their careers.  

Leading the men's soccer team, seniors Gerardo Rivas from El Salvador and Rodrigo Barauna from Brazil, made an indelible impact on their team throughout their careers. 

Gerardo Rivas served the men's soccer team as a captain and center defender, always leading from his heart.

"He has an innate ability to make people feel included, comfortable and loved," head coach Zach Ganzberg said. 

Rivas brought a grateful attitude and enjoyed sharing his Latino music, Christian values and positivism to the team. 

Rivas learned that hard work creates success and leaders. 

When asked to give a phrase that describes his soccer career, Rivas stated, "La más grande bendición de Dios," which means, "The greatest blessing from God" in Spanish.

Being a student-athlete taught Rivas that nothing comes easily, how to put others before himself, and show others how to do the same. He hopes to use what he learns as he plans to work for a non-profit organization following graduation spring 2019. 

When asked to share his advice to his team, Rivas stated, "Always stay humble, and stay in God," Rivas said. 

Rodrigo Barauna, primarily playing left defender, learned that leadership is supporting and enabling his team to be the best they can be.

"Rody is so adept at lightening the mood and keeping the team grounded," Ganzberg said.

Barauna learned how to manage his time, responsibilities, school, soccer and social life throughout his four years at MVNU. He believes that leadership is about supporting and enabling a team to be the best they can be. 

Barauna left his legacy by pushing his teammates to enjoy the game of soccer, from practices, to bus rides, and games.

"Don’t play for yourself, play for the guy running next to you on the field. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; we’re a family and we have each other’s back. Most importantly, remember to have fun while you play this game," Barauna said. 

Ganzberg said that together, Rivas and Barauna left a greater legacy than one would expect from  a two-person senior class.

"They’ve set the bar high for senior classes to come," Ganzberg said.

The women's soccer team could not have had a more supportive, adaptable, and devoted senior class this past fall season.

Transitioning into their first season under head soach Sarah Maracani, the senior class led the team through their character, hard work and dedication. 

Senior Eleanor Fleetwood emphasized her class’s strong leadership for the varsity team this past year.

​“Together, I think we brought both soccer and spiritual wisdom to the team. Personally, being on this team, despite injuries, has taught me to encourage someone and to put the team first,” Fleetwood said.

Maddie Gaines, captain and outside forward, explained how the team had to unify starting at the beginning of the season. 

“This past year, us girls became a family the first week of preseason, starting when we completed all the fitness tests. Everyone was just encouraging each other and rooting so much for each other throughout the changes going on this year,” Gaines said.

Much of the team's successes throughout their regular and conference seasons are credited to the senior class's leadership.

​Megan Casselberry, as a midfielder, learned that, "leadership is doing the right thing when no one is watching, putting the team before yourself, and helping to create and empower new leaders," she said. 

Captain and attacking-midfielder, Morgan Gibson, said that she will use leadership skills she has learned the past four years in her future career as a nurse. 

"The women's soccer team has made me a better person by the challenges we've faced and had to overcome together. It's helped to prepare me for my life after college because of our teamwork, learning to rely on one another, and helping me to be reliable for others," Gibson said. 

This senior class has brought laughter, love and wisdom to the Lady Cougar culture, and their legacy will not be forgotten.

​“Being a part of this family has taught me how to love others, and how to have discipline. It has taught me that life is going to be hard at times, but you are going to get through it. It’s taught me how important it is to have a community and have sisters in Christ. Because of this team, I know that keeping God first makes a life worth living,” defender and forward, Olivia Crichlow said. 

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