International flavor makes right mix for Seton Hill men’s soccer
From the small campus to friendly environment to seasonal changes and wide open spaces, Seton Hill meets all of Henrik Berg’s requirements for post-high school education.
There’s just one catch.
“Not having a car is such a disadvantage,” Berg said. “I can walk downtown sometimes, though there’s not as many shops and restaurants. Sometimes, someone will drive somewhere outside of town, which is nice, but you really need a car if you want to go somewhere off-campus.”
Berg, a sophomore forward on the men’s soccer team, isn’t alone in his plight. The Asa, Sweden native is one of 19 international players for the Griffins, who play Millersville in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference semifinals at 11 a.m. Friday at West Chester.
Not having a vehicle creates transportation problems, but there are a few benefits, too.
“I really enjoy the school because it’s small and everyone is so nice to each other, especially the soccer team. It’s like we’re one big family,” sophomore forward Alex Dysen said.
Like Berg, Dysen is from Sweden -- his hometown is Norrtalje -- and both said occasionally being “stuck on campus” with teammates from England, Norway, Greece, Wales, Canada and Australia and, of course, the United States, helped forge a bond that is evident on the field.
It’s helped the Griffins overcome several injuries -- Seton Hill has used 12 defenders this season -- and the ups and downs of the rigorous PSAC schedule.
“Definitely one of our core strengths is our ability to bounce back. This group has that fighting spirit,” said Dan McCarty, the only coach in Seton Hill men’s soccer history. “With all our international players at the core of this group, we have technically good and technically aware players. There’s just that family feel. These guys don’t want to let each other down. They do unselfish things for the good of the team.”
Seton Hill (7-4-7) is the tournament’s sixth seed, clinching a spot in the postseason with a 1-1 draw against No. 14 West Chester in the regular-season finale.
That fighting spirit was on display against West Chester and also Tuesday night at Gannon in the opening round of the conference tournament.
Archie Lock, a freshman midfielder from Bristol, England, put the Griffins ahead 1-0 late in the second half only to see Gannon score the equalizer a couple of minutes later. The match went to penalty kicks, and Seton Hill advanced, 5-4. Four of the five players -- Lock, Colin Watson (Great Britain), Jack Wardale (Great Britain) and John Trollsas (Sweden) -- who scored on PKs are part of the Griffins’ large international contingent.
“Winning that way in a shootout, it was pure joy,” Berg said. “There was a lot of relief in winning that game.”
It’s a winning formula that’s been brewing for about a decade.
McCarty credits former Seton Hill player and current volunteer assistant coach Dilveer Chaggar -- a native of London -- with beginning the influx of international talent. Players such as Berg and Dysen ended up in Greensburg after applying to agencies that help place international student-athletes at U.S. colleges. Applicants pick the type of schools they prefer, whether it’s an urban campus or somewhere smaller. The players attend showcases, talk to coaches and find the right fit.
It’s been a boon for McCarty, who has won 124 games in 15 years at Seton Hill and has led the Griffins to the PSAC final four for the third time since 2014.
“Not only do they bring something to the team and the campus community, as far as soccer is concerned, they train differently. They have higher soccer IQs, and they’ve helped our domestic players,” McCarty said. “For me, the management of the players is a little bit different because they’re different players. We rely more on athleticism here. These guys rely on angles and other things.”
Seton Hill’s top four goalscorers are Dysen (five goals, four assists), Berg (five goals, two assists), England native Joffe Bradley (three goals) and Norway’s Per Stenseth (Norway). The Griffins’ top distributor is Norway’s Tormod Staal Simonsen with eight assists.
And if they continue to play well, Seton Hill could be playing past the conference tournament.
“I think our strength is we play a full 90 minutes and overtime if we have to,” Dysen said. “We always seem to have a bit more to give. Against Gannon, they were tired, but we could keep on going. We pride ourselves on working harder.”