MORRIS – As far as sports nicknames go, “Slow” isn’t one most people want.
Former Morris soccer player Curtis Williams got saddled with that handle a couple of years ago at the first Morris Soccer Alumni Game.
“Guys were making fun of me a couple of years ago about being slow, so I raced them and they beat me,” Williams said. “They started chanting ‘Curtis is slow, Curtis is slow,’ and I guess it stuck.
“It doesn’t matter to me if I am slow, as long as the ball goes in the net.”
To that end, no one was better than Williams on Saturday afternoon at the Morris Community High School stadium, as his team of alumni beat another alumni team, 2-1, earning the right to play against this year’s varsity team. The alumni won that game, 1-0, on the strength of a goal by Fernando Del Toro, off an assist from none other than Slow Williams. It gave the alumni a 2-1 edge in the three-year-old series. The Morris varsity won the first game, 7-1, but the alumni won, 3-1, last year.
This year, the alumni had 26 players return, allowing them to break up into two teams and play against each other for the right to take on the varsity for bragging rights. Those playing as alumni, along with their graduating year, were Phil Tedford (2004), Nate Cote (2004), Curtis Williams (2009), Nathan Martello (2008), Cody Komperda (2012), Zach Harper (2013), Kyle Monk (2014), Ethan Bush (2008), Carl Monk (2009), Ryan Pletch (2008), Zach Larson (2013), Rigo Ochoa (2012), Kevin Wendling (2012), Diego Luna (2012), Salvador Villanueva (2014), Christian Calderon (2012), Jose Salinas (2014), Matt Thayer (2014), Austin Segura (2005), Michael Grommon (2013), Zach Verchinek (2010), Joe Mireles, Jacob Foster (2005), Andy Ohlwein (2010) and Ferdi Dzelil (2009).
“Last year, we had about 30 (alumni) guys show up, so the turnout was about the same,” Morris varsity coach David Valdivia said. “It’s a fun thing for us to do. It’s good for the varsity kids. Quite a few of the alumni are still playing in college, so the varsity gets some good competition, and it’s organized soccer instead of just going out and kicking the ball around.
“I did ask the alumni to donate if they would like to, and all the money goes to the MCHS Soccer Boosters. The main thing is for the guys to get together and come out and have fun while supporting the program. We want to grow soccer here. We have won three straight regional titles and we can be successful.”
The alumni vs. alumni game started with a goal for the white team’s Austin Segura into the upper left corner with 27:19 to play in the half. The maroon team rallied behind Williams, who scored on a breakaway with 14:51 left, then got an assist from Carl Monk to score the winning goal with 10:26 to play.
During the alumni vs. varsity game, the comedic stylings of announcer Hernan Gutierrez continued to entertain the crowd, as did the play on the field. Though both teams had good scoring chances, the goaltenders were up to the challenge and it remained scoreless for 35 minutes. Then Williams got a pass and headed it forward and Fernando Del Toro picked it up. He fired a shot into the net for a 1-0 lead, and the alumni defense made it stand up for the win.
“It’s a lot of fun to come out here and bridge the age gap,” Williams said. “It’s exciting to see where the program is going. I was on the team back in 2008, so I am one of the older guys out here, but it’s fun to get on the field and try to help the current kids in the program.”
Valdivia likes knowing that the alumni are interested in keeping the program moving forward.
“The guys that came out here today are still in shape and it was good to see them running formations and passing the ball correctly,” he said. “We wanted to have enough alumni players to break them up into two teams so they could all play more. That’s what this day is for, to honor the alumni that have helped build the program to where it is now. We have been pretty successful with three regional titles in a row, and those guys deserve a lot of the credit.
“The most important thing, though, is that everyone had fun. That’s the name of a game like this. We hope to keep it going.”