The prospect of graduating from high school and selecting just the right college for the next phase of life can be a period of time fraught with anxiety and baffling choices heading into the unknown. While some students decisive enough to go “early decision” might be able to relax a little, others could be wait-listed by a dream school and left hanging. Or there could be any variety of different permutations.
St. Ed’s graduate Will Sternberg went through a bunch of twists and turns before he eventually landed at the University of Virginia. Even better, he will be given an opportunity to pursue something that for him was non-negotiable all along – a bona fide shot at playing soccer in college.
The University of Hartford and University of South Carolina were the two early frontrunners before being caught and passed by the eventual national champs, U.Va – in basketball, that is. USC bolted out to the early lead. Sternberg picks up the story from there.
“It was an interesting process. All I wanted was an opportunity to try out for the soccer team, and whatever happened after that I could live with the results. USC had just about everything I wanted, but going in knowing that I had no chance to make the school team didn’t sit well. That’s why I started looking elsewhere.
“So I went up for my Hartford visit and had a great time. I really liked the soccer team. The coaches observed me training and when I came back home they still wanted more game film. So I sent it. Unfortunately, the head coach couldn’t decide. He said I wouldn’t be on the team in the fall, but I could continue training, and they would try me out in the spring.
“In the meantime I had just heard back that I was accepted at U.Va. I was able to get in touch with them and was told I should play club soccer in the fall. Then they would come and watch me play for a chance to try out in the spring.
“I was so set on Hartford, but fortunately got over it quickly because U.Va is a better school. And I will still be given an opportunity to have a chance to walk-on.”
All he asked for was an opportunity to continue playing a sport he loved from the very beginning. He is now encouraged it will happen.
“I started playing soccer when I was really young, probably when I first started walking. At 4 or 5 years old I started playing in rec leagues where my dad was the coach. Then around 10 years old I realized I really liked the game and thought I was pretty good at it. That’s when I started playing competitively on a travel team. And I haven’t looked back.
“I wound up playing on several travel teams and, of course, here at school on the middle school team and then the varsity. All four years in high school I played soccer on a travel team during whatever sports season I was in. I was constantly going from practice to practice. And I loved all of it.”
Those other sports seasons filled up rapidly. Lacrosse became a staple during middle school and gave Sternberg a chance to excel on defense. He enjoyed the contrast to soccer, where his forte was offense. With soccer in the winter and lacrosse in the spring, the fall season was wide open for experimentation.
“Fall was always the season that I felt like trying something different. Freshman year I was on the JV golf team. That summer I tore my quad at the U.Va soccer camp. I couldn’t run yet and I had to do something. It was a blast. We had a good, competitive team.
“I did cross country once and that was my sophomore year. I was a pretty decent runner and we qualified for the state tournament as a team. It kept my conditioning up for soccer and I really enjoyed being on the team.
“I didn’t fall in love with any particular sport until I came out for football as a junior. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was difficult for me to make a commitment earlier, but I wish I could have gone back and played as a freshman and sophomore.”
Sternberg will hopefully become a soccer walk-on in college, and he will certainly walk away from high school sports in style. This year he was All-Area First Team as a soccer forward, and All-District First Team as a long-stick middie in lacrosse.
Academically he is leaning toward math, science and business. He has been at St. Ed’s since junior kindergarten and is leaving very familiar surroundings, telling us, “I won’t know anyone so we’ll see how that goes.”
It should go pretty well with soccer still in the picture.