By Dave Ongie, News Editor
“You can’t win them all.”
“You win some, you lose some.”
Both phrases are so old and so universally applicable that nobody can even remember where they came from. They probably originated in the world of sports, but they both apply to virtually every walk of life.
However, there is one place these well-worn clichés have no bearing, and that is among the young men who have donned Liberty Bell soccer jerseys for the past 15 years or so. After a good deal of research, nobody associated with the program can recall how long it has been since the Patriots last felt the sting of defeat.
Current coach Edwin Santana knows the winning streak stretches back at least 11 seasons, covering his own tenure as head coach as well as David Strickland’s time coaching the lads from Liberty Bell. There are no records to back it up, but some say the streak extends back at least 15 years. Either way, odds are good Liberty Bell hasn’t lost a soccer game – in the regular season or the postseason – since before the members of this year’s team were born.
A regular season is typically 12 games with another three games of postseason play, so at a minimum, Liberty Bell’s streak now stands at well over 150 matches and counting after this year’s squad put the finishing touches on another undefeated campaign.
While Liberty Bell’s victories may feel inevitable to those outside the program, Santana knows the streak is also a heavy burden his players shoulder year in and year out, and that burden only gets heavier with each passing season. Every opponent on Liberty Bell’s schedule has designs on shocking the world, putting a target on the Patriots’ backs.
“We can’t take anything for granted,” Santana said. “You have to show up as soon as that whistle blows with intensity and energy.”
This season presented a unique challenge in the form of COVID-19. Players were quarantined from time to time, forcing Santana and his assistant Becky Earp to shuffle the lineup many times. By the final game of the season, five players were missing due to injury or quarantine, but the Patriots found a way to keep the streak alive.
“In years past, we haven’t had issues like that,” Santana said. “It’s just been a breeze because they’re so talented, but this year, with the lineup switching all the time, it was really amazing to see them come together. They were really worried about being the ones that lost the streak.”
Luckily for Santana, Liberty Bell was blessed with a remarkable eighth-grade class this year. The leadership of Palmer Kind, Samuel Moody, Jael Rodriguez, Tingen Hatcher and Miguel Ramirez allowed the Patriots to navigate all the uncertainties unscathed.
“They really buy in and become an extension of the coaches on the field,” Santana said of his eighth-grade class. “This year is one of the best years I’ve had as far as having that type of character out on the field and everyone else kind of feeding off their leadership. They’ve been truly amazing.”
The combination of talent and leadership is a huge key to the success Liberty Bell’s soccer program has achieved. But Santana says it takes more than that in order to keep the winning streak alive year after year. Talented players have to be willing to sacrifice for the good of the team.
With 20 talented individuals on the roster, the competition for playing time is fierce, and players who are used to playing the whole game on their club teams have to adjust to sharing minutes. Not only that, players also have to be open to switching positions in order for Santana to put the best lineup on the field.
This year, Moody made the selfless decision to move from his preferred position at forward to the wing, and the rest of the team took notice. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s an example of the mindset it takes to remove “you lose some” from the equation.
“When the rest of the team sees him buy into the fact that he’s not playing where he wants to play, and he’s going to do what the coaches are asking of him because that’s what’s best for the team, that makes everything easier,” Santana said.