On September 20, the Sant Bani School soccer team took to the field for the first time in 23 months, after the 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While cautiously optimistic for the season ahead, there initially were questions about what the season ahead might bring.
When the final whistle sounded to conclude the last game of the season on October 13, the result was one few likely would have predicted a month prior: an undefeated season.
“The players deserve all the credit in the world for their success this season,” said head coach Merrick Smith. “Both teams going undefeated says a lot about the quality and commitment of each and every member of the program. We couldn’t be prouder of how they have represented the Sant Bani School community.”
There was enough interest this season for the School to form two teams: one comprised of players in grades 5 and 6, and one consisting of players in grades 7 and 8. When the group convened on Allen Field for the first practice of the year on September 8, there was a clear excitement amongst the players for the opportunity to resume interscholastic competition.
The 2021 Sant Bani School soccer season was slated to begin with a trip to Andover Elementary/Middle School on September 15 for a match against the historically strong Andover Middle School team. However, inclement weather postponed the match, pushing the team’s first game in nearly two years until September 20 when the 5/6 team traveled to Thornton Central School. The Swans jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and held on for a tight 2-1 victory to begin the season on a high note.
A busy opening week of games continued the following day when the 7/8 team visited Franklin Middle School. Steady contributions from players throughout the lineup resulted in a 3-1 victory ahead of the much-anticipated game at Andover, which had been rescheduled for September 23. Making a slight tactical adjustment, Sant Bani School contained Andover’s attack while capitalizing on its chances in the final third to secure the 2-0 win.
As the teams settled into the season’s rhythm, the 5/6 team earned wins against Winnisquam Middle School and a second victory over Thornton, while the 7/8 team was victorious against Thornton and Franklin. Entering the final week of the season, the teams sported a cumulative 7-0 record as they prepared for the final games of the season on October 13.
On an unseasonably warm autumn afternoon, both teams took to the road seeking to conclude an undefeated season. The 5/6 team faced Winnisquam and, with fifth-graders scoring all four goals, played its most complete game of the season to earn a 4-0 victory, the team’s second-consecutive clean sheet. Meanwhile, the 7/8 team returned to Andover for a rematch with the Eagles. When the final whistle sounded, Sant Bani School had registered a 3-1 victory.
They had done it. The teams secured what is thought to be the first perfect soccer season in School history with a combined 9-0 record. The season was a memorable one for the team’s seven eighth graders, and with several players returning the team is already looking forward to next fall.