The Student News Site of Green Level High School

The Gator's Eye

The Student News Site of Green Level High School

The Gator's Eye

The Student News Site of Green Level High School

The Gator's Eye

Men’s Soccer Wins First Ever Home Playoff Game in Program History

The men’s soccer team before taking the field for the first-round state playoff game.

The Green Level men’s soccer team has shown immense success throughout this season, achieving goals and making history. 

On Monday, October 23rd, they had their last conference game of the season versus Apex Friendship. Ending the game in a 2-1 win, they became the first team in the soccer program at Green Level to win a SWAC title. 

The Gator’s overall winning record has put them as the top seed in the East and second seed in the entire state; therefore allowing them the privilege of having a majority of their games to be played at Home. 

The first round of playoffs for the Gators took place on Monday, October 30th, against the 31st seed: the Jordan Falcons. 

With kick-off 30 minutes after the expected start time, the Gators were ready to take the field. They were able to possess around the Falcons but were not able to get a lot of chances on goal early on. Toward the end of the first half, Sr. Ellis Garver was able to execute a goal with an assist from Sr. Thomas Phelps. 

In the second half, the ball was primarily on the Falcons defensive half. The Gators were able to secure another goal after the ball bounced around in the ‘6, then Sr. Eric Sthole tapped it in. As the half continued, the Falcons continued to work hard and did not give any indication of giving up. However; shortly after Jr. Landon Ung went into the game, he was able to challenge the Falcon’s goalkeeper and win the ball, taking it around him to successfully put it in the back of the net. This added another goal on the scoreboard for the Gators. With about 15 minutes left, the Falcons used the amount of time left to gain intensity and get into their attacking half. They were able to connect and get a solid goal against the Gators, making the score 1-3. The Gators remained strong defensively for the rest of the game, winning the first-ever home playoff match for the soccer program. 

The team is led offensively by Garver in both goals (12) and assists (7). As well as, Sr. Thomas Phelps, who has secured 6 goals and 5 assists. Sr. Maxwell Shell and Sr. Sean O’Dowd work together to connect the midfield and facilitate the game. While on the defensive side, Sr. Luke Holdstock has made 123 saves this season in goal, and Sr. Eric Sthole, as well as Sr. Brendan Burke have continuously proven to be forces in the back.

Last year, the team finished 5th in the conference and faced a tough loss to Cardinal Gibbons in the first round of playoffs. When talking to Sr. Maxwell Shell about how he feels this season compares to last, he says, “It’s incomparable to last season…we have way more chemistry as a team and the will to win is definitely greater.” 

In a prior interview when the Gators started conference play, Head Coach Denis Solakoglu, said in response to being the no.1 ranked team in the East, “I think it is important; however, it really doesn’t signal any of our goals. At the end of it all, our goals are to first win the SWAC, and then go from there…the target on our backs gets bigger and bigger as you achieve higher ranking.”

The perseverance and determination of the Gators have allowed them to be successful from the very beginning and ultimately achieve one of their top goals for the season. Solakoglu has also been recognized as the 2023 SWAC Men’s Soccer Coach of the Year. 

“It gives us motivation to play with more passion every game”, Shell says knowing that any game could be his last representing Green Level. 

The Gators will play in the second-round playoff game on Thursday, November 2nd, versus the 15th seed; Apex Friendship.

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About the Contributor
M. Toppin, Sports Editor
My name is Maris Toppin and I am a senior here at Green Level. I am also a student ambassador and member of the women’s soccer team. In my free time I love to read, spend time outside, and hangout with my friends. This is my fourth year being on the Gator’s Eye staff and I look forward to contributing to the class and continuing to grow as a writer!