Soccer Team Makes History with Title Win

Last title was the 1996 team



The Wake Forest attack pushes up the field. Forward, Chris Steg (far left) has 15 goals on the season. Center Mid, Khalil Gueye (middle) netted 5 goals for the Cougars. Attacking Mid, Chris Guccio (far right) finished 10 goals for the team.

Emma Lewis, Editor-in-chief

With the thought at the back of their minds that Wake Forest boys’ soccer has not won a conference championship since 1996, this year’s varsity team sought to make this goal happen.

Even from the start of the season, the boys had high hopes for achieving this level of recognition.

Senior Luis Dorta has been a key component of the team, having scored three goals this season.

“I think we had a really high probability to win conference, and that was our goal. From the beginning of workouts, our goal was winning conference and going far into states,” Dorta said. “Throughout the season, we realized how good of a team we are and that we could make it. I knew we were going to put in all the work, and since the first practice I knew we had the heart to accomplish this.”

The team completed regulation undefeated in conference (10-0) and 16-1-2 overall.

There have been an abundance of defining moments for the team as a whole, but each player has one in particular that stood out to them, including senior Ryan Pitz who has made three goals so far.

“I think when we were down against Heritage at home. We really had to search something in ourselves, and I think we found it because we ended up winning the game,” Pitz said.

The team defeated the Huskies 3 to 2 Oct. 3 at home in their first conference meeting.

During two games the boys have had to play from behind, causing them to have to dig deep and find something to push to victory. They also played in three overtime games, winning two. For senior Khalil Gueye who has scored three times for the Cougars in the 2019 regular season, playing from behind can be a defeatable obstacle with the right actions.

“It’s really important to keep a good mindset and to not get too discouraged. Just always having that zero-zero mentality; to know that you can come back and win the game no matter what,” Gueye said.

The varsity boys’ soccer coach, Rick Pittarelli, consistently gives advice and guidance to his team throughout games. In particular, the games in which they had to play from behind were influenced by Pittarelli’s instruction.

“There’s been times in the game that we’ve been behind and we’ve come back to win or at least tie, and it’s just asking them to play with all their heart and give every bit of energy that they have,” Pittarelli said.

Coach Pittarelli was named conference coach of the year by his peers. He knew there would be many difficulties thrown at the team this year, but he believed unity would be the key factor in overcoming these.

“It’s an entire rollercoaster ride of emotions through the whole season—you have ups and downs, but it’s like being a family; you have good times and bad times. You just have to work through it,” Pitarelli said.

The team has worked hard in order to gain the title as conference champions, and they reflect back on their other accomplishments this season.

“I feel that this team is definitely the best we’ve seen in a long time, and we are all really close and we believe in each other,” senior Patrick Page said.

When Heritage tied the last conference game 2 to 2, a great deal of intense feelings bombarded the boys.

“There was a lot of emotions going through my head and everyone else… it is some anger because you can blame yourself for not doing enough and also feeling down. You cannot let those feelings get to you, and you just have to play your game,” Pitz said.

Junior goalkeeper Connor Kitson recorded 7 shut-outs and stopped three penalty kicks in the win over Heritage in the final regular season game. Kitson expressed the loads of emotions he experienced prior to the penalty kicks.

“I knew that we haven’t won conference in a while, and I really wanted to bring it home for our school. I just wanted to win,” Kitson said.

Notable leading scorers for the team at the conclusion of the regular season were junior Chris Steg with 12 goals, senior Justin Palmer with 8 and three players with 6 goals each: senior Chris Guccio, junior James Holmes and sophomore Josh Rutland. Steg considered the achievement of the soccer program gaining a conference title for the first time in over two decades.

“It shows all of us that we can do a lot more than we thought we could in a long time and the possibilities are endless,” Steg said.

Primarily working on defense, senior Bryan Marshall also netted 3 goals. He spoke about the team’s behavior through the season that helped them to win the conference title.

“I think everyone did their part and contributed, and everyone knew their specific role on the team,” Marshall said.

There have been endless takeaways from the season, and with his coaching experience, Pitarelli plans to transfer the lessons to next year’s team.

Pitarelli said, “Just learning that the more you win the harder it gets. You have people that are condemning you and put a bullseye on your back.

It’s almost like you have a microscope, and it keeps getting closer the more you win. That’s something we had to learn this year is that we represent not just a soccer team but the entire school.

When we put on the uniform and even when we go into public, people know who Wake Forest soccer is now.”