August 26, 2010

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PC grad takes over CHC soccer team

The men’s soccer squad at Chestnut Hill College started practice last Wednesday under new head coach Keith Cappo, who had been an assistant coach for the Griffins for two seasons.

Cappo’s very familiar with the Philadelphia soccer scene. He grew up in Northeast Philly and attended Penn Charter, where he was an All-Inter-Ac selection. He went on to start for four years at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and was named team MVP as a junior and a senior.

Cappo has worked with scholastic-level players at Thomas Edison High School in the Philadelphia Public League (2004-2006) and at Shipley School in the Friends Schools League, where he coached just before joining the staff at Chestnut Hill. He still teaches math at the Bryn Mawr school, and he also remains involved in youth soccer as coach of the Under-13 team for West Chester United.

In the figurative sense, the CHC team is Cappo’s “new baby,” and he has a real one, as well; he and his wife, Emily, have a 10-month-old son.

Although the Griffins finished the 2009 campaign with a record of 3-12-2 overall and 1-8-2 in the Central Atlantic Athletic Conference, a goal or two could’ve turned a number of losses and ties into victories. CHC played five overtime games, and emerged 1-2-2 in those contests.

The Griffins graduated only three seniors from that squad, but lost a half-a-dozen other athletes through attrition. However, a lot of the most talented players were very young, and nine starters are back for 2010.

Reflecting the relative youth of the team, only one of the tri-captains, midfielder Julian Fernandez, is a senior. The others, forward Gavin Reid and defender Kyle Thornley, are both juniors and are returning starters.

Reid was one of the Griffins’ top four scorers in 2009, and the squad also returns the other three, senior Maurice Blanton (a penalty-kick specialist) and sophomores Carl Essenthier and Ryan Lannutti. In goal will be sophomore Mike Goldstein, who started in 11 games last year while logging a .696 save percentage. Coach Cappo has also been impressed by keeper Calvin Young, a freshman out of William Tennent High School.

Although he’s a Philadelphia native, Cappo says, “I don’t want to be stuck in that mold of only recruiting local players.”

He scouted tournaments up and down the East Coast this summer, and prospects for the 2011 freshman class include players from Alabama and California.

“We’re also getting interest from guys in this year’s [high school] senior class without us having to contact them first,” Cappo said. “That’s a sign that word is getting out there about the program, and a lot of credit goes to the guys on the team, who are very enthusiastic about promoting the school.”

Chestnut Hill’s on-campus grass field, while picturesque, has always been notoriously difficult to maintain. This fall the soccer squad will rely more than ever on the artificial turf field which the college installed several years ago at Colonial Middle School a few minutes up Germantown Pike. As the booters began pre-season practice last week, lights were being erected alongside the turf field, and the Griffins have scheduled a number of night games this season.

In addition to a challenging agenda within the CAAC, Chestnut Hill has added West Chester University to a list of tough non-conference opponents.

Cappo noted that he doesn’t recruit players who play a specific style of soccer.

“We have a number of formations that can be tailored to our personnel,” he explained. “I can already see that we’re going to have a lot of depth, and we’re also going to be versatile; a lot of the guys we’ve brought in can play all over the field. From what I’m seeing in these first practices, our morale is high, and so are our expectations.”


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