It Will be a Friday Farewell for Blue Demons Honored at Senior Day
Nov. 7, 2013
CHICAGO - There will be a palpable sense of finality on Friday as DePaul's seven seniors walk onto Wish Field for the last time in their college careers.
Most of the time, Senior Day ceremonies at DePaul are followed by a road game or a postseason showdown---something that lets the student-athletes know this is not the end.
But after Eric Sorby, Thiago Ganancio, Michael Stankiewicz, Zach Forbes, Kyle Gustafson, Cale Hartle and Jared Blincow exhaust themselves in the noon BIG EAST match against No. 10/19 Marquette, they will take off uniforms never to be worn by them again.
The significance of this one last hurrah might be lost on the 300 or so school children and their teachers in the Field Trip Day crowd.
For all those involved in the men's soccer program, this is going to be a memorable occasion.
"My favorite memory was last year's Senior Day against USF," Hartle said. "There was a great atmosphere at Wish Field as there were three seniors we wanted to send off with a win. It was an unreal effort that everyone put forth in that game.
"I remember David Leverentz scoring two goals early. He was a player that had not gotten much playing time during the season, and when it came to the biggest game of his senior year, he stepped up.
"When I got to step on the field, I was on pins and needles. We had a lead, and it was my chance to be a competitor that was going to help us win. When the final whistle blew, we had won 3-2, and that is a day in my DePaul career I will not forget."
It's been a tough farewell tour for the seven seniors. DePaul has lost four games in overtime and two others by a single goal. The Blue Demons were 10 seconds away from a tie with No. 19 Northwestern and one second away from a win over Wisconsin, nw ranked No. 16/17.
"Obviously it's disappointing that we haven't been able to get the results that we've wanted or deserved," Blincow said. "But some of the soccer we've been playing this year has been the best I've ever seen in my four years here.
"I can honestly say I've enjoyed playing more this year than any of the previous years."
Sorby was glad his teammates never let adversity get the best of them.
"There have been a lot of tough losses, but we have responded well after each game," said Sorby, who was No. 2 in the nation in saves at one point and among the top five most of the season. "I think there has been a real change in mentality this year.
"Before we enter a game, we feel confident that we are going to win. There is no doubt in our minds that we can go out and battle for 90 minutes or even 110 and beat the best teams in the country.
"I have matured as a soccer player and as an individual. Over the years I have had a lot of good role models such as Patrick Hopkins, Alex Mangan, Matt Leinauer and Mark Plotkin. Since my freshman year I have tried to be a leader like those individuals before me. This means being the first one in to training, being the last to leave and staying on top of your schoolwork."
Injuries put a definite damper on the last roundup for Hartle and Zach Forbes. And yet, each emerged with a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Blue Demon.
"After our first few preseason games, I broke my thumb," Hartle said. It kept me out of games and practices for over a month and was a humbling experience.
"It was the first serious injury I've experienced, and while it was a tough pill to swallow, it allowed me to connect with the team in a new way as a presence on the bench.
"With all the highs and lows this year, it has been great that we have all stayed together as a team. Even in the face of adversity, we have been able to stay strong as a unit working and fighting for one another."
Forbes could certainly identify with what Hartle has experienced this year.
"My senior season had been going great both collectively and individually," Forbes said. "Except in the latter part of the season, I have been injured.
"Even so, I cannot seem to spend enough time with the guys. No matter what mood I am in, they always seem to lighten up my day.
"We have not been winning as many games as I would have liked this year, but we have been competitive in almost every game---and that's all you can ask."
Gustafson has seen himself grow up since arriving in Lincoln Park.
"Being a Blue Demon has taught me the value of being accountable," said Gustafson, whose header to the far post was the winning goal against Loyola Chicago. "When I arrived freshman year, I think I was selfish at times, more worried about myself than the team.
"As I moved along, I learned that being a leader does not simply mean being vocal on the field. It involves the way that you conduct yourself on and off the field while being accountable to others.
"My favorite memory of my career has to be winning 2-0 at Northwestern my junior year. It was the ultimate team effort. It was also huge for us because they came into the game ranked and undefeated, as well as a local rival. The feeling after that game was one I will always remember."
Stankiewicz certainly saved his best for last.
"Individually, I am very happy to have scored my first two collegiate goals in back to back games," he said about finding the back of the net in wins over SIU-Edwardsville and Eastern Illinois earlier in the season. "As a team, I have enjoyed battling with my teammates in the new and challenging BIG EAST Conference.
"I have been able to grow physically and mentally playing the game at this level for four years. Now as a senior, I've attained many skills on and off the field, like leadership, that I plan on taking to my future career."
Ganancio opened the 2012 season with a bang, scoring two goals in a victory over Illinois-Chicago. For that performance, he was named the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week.
"Actually, my favorite memory of DePaul soccer was playing in my first collegiate game and scoring a header against Oakland for the win as a sophomore," Ganancio said. "I came in as a 17 year-old, and I have matured a lot.
"I have learned to play to my strengths and have developed skills such as strength, speed and experience that I did not have when I came in.
"Having worked at six different jobs in the last three years and balancing school and soccer has really kept me disciplined and helped me grow up."
Sorby will take some cherished memories with him as he walks off Wish Field for the final time on Friday.
"Playing at Wish field is something I will always remember," Sorby said. "There is no other field like it. You've got the el tracks on one side, St. Vincent de Paul on the wall, the student section, and another dorm all enclosing Wish Field and Cacciatore Stadium. I know teams hate coming to play here, and it feels like home to us.
"The last thing I'll remember is doing all the things as a team. Whether it is Cale competing in a food challenge Friday at the student center or walking around some of the greatest cities in the world on our soccer trips---we did it as a team.
"One of the most important things to learn from my DePaul experience is what it means to be a Blue Demon. At DePaul you learn about St. Vincent de Paul and how important it is to be kind to others and give back to your community. You learn how to achieve the things that you are passionate about.
"You also learn from the mistakes you've made and you don't repeat them. Going forward I have the support of a great university, and I know that I can become successful in whatever lies ahead of me."
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