Boys’ soccer head coach David Waseleski recently held what he hopes will become an annual Ewing High School tradition—an Alumni Day celebration.
“I wanted to keep the former players involved so that once they leave they can stay engaged with the soccer program,” says Waseleski, who got the idea for the event from his days playing baseball at The College of New Jersey. “We always had an Alumni Day, and it was a huge hit. Players would come back and you’d share stories and have a good time. It keeps the family environment.”
This year’s event, which was held on Oct. 14 in conjunction with a game against Notre Dame, helped to showcase this year’s team. Although Ewing lost the game, the team had already seen some success during the season. The Blue Devile had handed Princeton, the No. 3 seed for the Mercer County Tournament this year, a 2-1 defeat—one of just three losses this season for Princeton. The Blue Devils finished the season with a 3-12-2 record.
Waseleski, now in his second year as head coach, says that holding the event around a Saturday game made the most sense, and it allowed the most alumni to attend. The returning players were announced at halftime.
He says the day gives the current players an opportunity to hear a little about what post-graduation life has in store for them. “We can highlight someone who is doing something in the world, and the current players can see that they can use them as a connection,” Waseleski says. “The more connections you have, it’s a good thing in the real world.”
The coach also wants the alumni to know that they are still a part of the program and how important they are to the Blue Devils.
“I have stayed in touch with them,” Waseleski says. “Some of them have family who are on the team, younger brothers, so that keeps them in the loop, and there are a lot of guys in the immediate area. I really want to make it so it’s open to them to come and watch games and be more involved in terms of getting out there to support the team.”
Waseleski says in the long run he hopes that Alumni Day will help build a sense of pride for the Ewing High soccer team.
“It’s not football, so the soccer program doesn’t have as many opportunities for fans, especially because most of our games are right after school,” Waseleski said. “There’s Senior Night, but you don’t want to take away from the seniors. I want to reach out more to the community and bring people to watch. What these guys are doing on the field is good stuff. They’re working hard. I want them to be recognized.”
Former EHS soccer player Matt Fowler missed Alumni Day, but the former team captain had a good excuse—he was 4,000 miles away.
A junior at Villanova University, Fowler was studying abroad in Rome and following his interest in journalism as an intern working for Catholic News Service, which is based in Piazza San Pietro, also known as St. Peter’s Square. He covers the Pope and the Vatican as if he were a full-time member of the staff.
“Rome presented a unique opportunity for me to see the world while also gaining valuable experience in the field of journalism,” says Fowler, who graduated from EHS two years ago.
Fowler says he’s disappointed he didn’t get to attend the inaugural Alumni Day, but he hopes to make it to next year’s event. He says he looks forward to the opportunity to meet current players and reconnect with past teammates.
‘Senior year, we were brothers. Most of us had played together our entire lives and really created a strong bond.’
“Alumni Day is great idea from Coach Waz,” Fowler says. “I would return for Alumni Day, because of how big of an impact the Ewing High soccer program had on my life. It really helped me grow as an individual and as a leader. My closest friends played for that program and the memories made on that field are things I’ll never forget.”
Meanwhile, for Fowler, it was his love of soccer that led him to pursue journalism. “I knew I wanted my career to be focused around sports, but was unsure of the field I wanted to pursue it through,” he said. “My senior year, I took an intro to journalism class with Mrs. (Kelly) Masterson and my interest for the topic really took off.”
He has gotten increasingly involved in journalism and sports writing since then. He took his interest to Villanova and actively pursued his new passion.
“I wrote a few pieces for the high school paper and went on to apply for ‘The Villanovan,’ the school paper, when I arrived on campus,” Fowler said. “After being accepted to write for them, I was presented with an opportunity to write for ‘The Sports Quotient,’ an online sports blog.”
He said that he has been contributing to SQ for almost two years while covering different sports on campus for The Villanovan. In addition, articles that Fowler has written for Catholic News have been been picked up by other online sites, such as Crux, he said.
Waseleski says he is thrilled to hear what his players are up to after they graduate, and he’s not surprised that Fowler has done so well for himself. He’s gotten updates from Fowler’s mother and enjoys seeing him once or twice a year when he is home. The coach says he has read several of Fowler’s articles and thinks he’s doing “a great job.”
“Matt was a person who really represents the Ewing High soccer team well,” he said. “He was a former captain, a four-year varsity player and a guy I want my guys to look up. He shows what hard work can take you.”
Fowler stays up on the progress of the Ewing team. He made a couple games last year, and remains grateful for the time he played for the Blue Devils. He says the program helped him to develop athletically, to mature as an individual and grow as a leader and communicator.
“Playing four years of varsity soccer required a certain level of commitment to the game and to those sharing the field with me,” he said. “The people I played with really shaped me into the person I am today,” he says. “Whether it be absorbing information and advice from seniors as a freshman, or relaying that same advice to younger players as a senior, the things I learned from the program are important to not only soccer, but life in general.”
During his freshman year, he played with a group of seniors on the varsity team who helped him adjust to the speed of the game, the physicality and the communication necessary to be successful at that level.
“They helped me settle in and become confident in my ability to lead and contribute to a team,” Fowler said. “And then senior year, we were brothers. Most of us had played together our entire lives and really created a strong bond. That team was a close family and the relationships we made have held up over the years.”
Now, with the annual Alumni Day event, Fowler and other past players like him will have the opportunity to add to that family.