Tennent Takes on Holy Ghost at Talen Energy Stadium

William Tennent took on Holy Ghosts Prep at Talen Energy Stadium on Wednesday night. (Photo provided by William Tennent soccer)

HOLY GHOST PREP 2, WILLIAM TENNENT 1
Some things never get old.

Topping that list for members of William Tennent’s soccer team is the opportunity to play at Talen Energy Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Union. On Wednesday night, for the second time in as many years, the Panthers took on Holy Ghost Prep at the MLS stadium in Chester.

“It’s awesome,” senior captain Max Schulze said. “From the first time he told us we’d be doing this, the whole team was super excited about it. We look forward to it all year.

“Last year it was actually the last game of the season which made it mind blowing. It was awesome, a great environment. This year it was the same. Everyone was super competitive. It just seems like everyone wants it more than any other game of the season. It’s just unbelievable.”

“It’s an awesome experience,” senior captain Matt D’Ambra said. “Playing in this stadium is just crazy. We all look forward to it – it’s the high point of the season.”

“Getting to experience the locker room and the long bus ride – it’s a great experience to bond,” senior captain Jack Forbes added. “It’s just amazing walking into the stadium that the pros play in, going into the locker room. It’s amazing.”

Last year, the Firebirds eked out a 1-0 win in double overtime. Wednesday’s game was equally competitive.

“It just makes you want to give it your all – you put your heart out,” Schulze said. “Especially looking around and seeing everyone watching you – your families, everyone comes out to it. Seeing William Tennent and Holy Ghost everywhere, even on the billboards – it’s unbelievable that they can set it up so quickly for us.”

“It feels like we’re professionals,” D’Ambra said. “It’s awesome playing in that stadium.

“Everyone gets up for it,” Forbes said. “I feel like all the kids – they want to perform. We’re on camera out there. Everyone is giving it there all.”

And what will they remember most about the experience?

“Just being able to get there and get in the locker room – you just feel like you’re in the professional environment,” Schulze said. “It’s something like no other. It’s not like just playing in a normal stadium. Looking around and seeing that you’re in the Union stadium is just mind blowing.”

“When you look around, you’re surrounded by all the fans,” D’Ambra said. “A lot of people come to these games, and seeing all the fans, it’s surreal. When you score, you see everyone cheering. It’s just amazing.”

“It’s something you can’t explain,” Forbes said. “It’s just amazing out there. There’s no way to really tell what it’s like.

“The walk-out is one of the best parts. That’s what really makes it. You walk from the locker room with the other team, you go out to midfield, everyone gets announced. You walk across, high five the other team, wish them good luck and go back to your benches.”

Holy Ghost Prep is the alma mater of Tennent coach Nick D’Andrea.

“We were invited by Holy Ghost Prep, so we gladly accepted the invitation,” D’Andrea said. “I don’t know how you can recreate this experience for the boys.  As coaches, we keep begging them to switch places – we want to play.

“For the families, for the players, it’s the greatest atmosphere. It’s something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. It’s just a fantastic experience. The people at the Union have been fantastic, and the boys are just loving it. I just hope that one of these games we’ll come out on top.”

*****
The game itself was a good one.
Sean Metz gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead when he connected from deep on the right flank in the 25th minute.

“It looked like he was attempting to cross the ball and put it in the box,” D’Andrea said. “He kind of over-hit it and it went over the keeper’s head and into the goal. It was from about 35 out, maybe 40 out. It was a pretty good hit.”
That 1-0 lead stood until the Firebirds converted a penalty kick in the 63rd minute. They followed that with the game-winner, but the Panthers were in it until the final whistle.

“It was a fantastic effort,” D’Andrea said. “The boys have really been playing well. We just seem to coming up on the short end of the results, but the effort has been there, our play has been there.

“This was a great high school match. We had opportunities, and it was a really well played overall game. We had them on the ropes, but they’re a really good team.”

The players put the result into perspective.

“We couldn’t come up with the result, but it was an awesome game – two evenly matched teams,” D’Ambra said. “It was a really close game, and it always is. Playing Holly Ghost is a challenge, but we’re always up to it.”

“I feel like the boys worked hard,” Forbes added. “My teammates gave it their all. We came up in the end unlucky, but we’ll bounce back from it.”