Ryan Peslis '15 & Jeff Brown '15 Reflect on 2014 Boys' Soccer State Title Win
Cyrus Elmi, Austin Recinos and Avi Singh are captains on this year’s Moravian Academy boys soccer team.
Those three seniors will lead the Lions into Saturday’s PIAA Class A state championship game.
If the Colonial League and District 11 champions prevail over Winchester Thurston of District 7 and secure the program’s second state crown, it’ll be an experience that the three captains and all the Moravian Academy players will cherish for years to come.
That’s a sentiment shared by two accomplished alums, Jeff Brown '15 and Ryan Peslis '15, who were senior standouts on the 2014 state title team.
In advance of this year’s PIAA final, Brown and Peslis looked back on their experiences from a 4-0 win over Sewickley Academy of District 7 in the state championship game played five years ago.
The memories are both fond and fresh.
“Our run to the state championship is one of my favorite memories from an incredible 14 years at Moravian Academy,” said Brown, who graduated from Tufts University in May with a degree in mechanical engineering. “Nothing can compare to holding up the championship trophy with your best friends to a cheering crowd of parents and classmates. I still feel a rush of adrenaline thinking about that day.”
The players from that team make it a point to meet up whenever they can, Brown said. He and Peslis agreed that the championship game inevitably comes up in their conversation.
“Winning the state championship my senior year was the highlight of high school for me,” said Peslis, who graduated from Lafayette College in May and works at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Manhattan.
“Safe to say most of my teammates would feel the same. Being able to step under the lights of Hershey Stadium in a state final representing your high school was surreal. I admittedly still watch replays of the game and highlights from time to time and still stay in contact with a ton of my teammates today. Moravian is a small community, which creates a tight family.”
Peslis and Brown scored goals in Moravian Academy’s state final victory, which came on a cold and windy Friday night. Nic Lozano and Phil Astolfi also tallied goals for the Lions.
Moravian Academy led 2-0 at intermission and controlled play throughout, firing off 10 shots on goal compared to Sewickley Academy’s three.
“I can still remember everything about the game. It was a frigid, windy Friday night in Hershey,” Brown recalled. “Our fan section was comprised of nervous parents and bus loads of screaming students.
“I still watch the state championship video frequently, most recently within the last month.”
Peslis was involved in two of the team’s four scoring sequences. He was the only Lion with both a goal and an assist in the game.
“Assisting Jeff Brown on the first goal,” Peslis said, “and scoring the third goal are definitely memories that will last with me forever.”
Should this Moravian Academy team win Saturday, it’ll heat up an already warming debate over which is the better state championship squad. Hartman, the program’s longtime coach in his 19th season, said there are many more similarities than differences.
“I think this team is very similar to the 2014 team that won the state championship,” he said. “Very talented, like to possess the ball and physical enough to play against ‘tough’ teams. Both teams had hard-fought first round wins but I don't think anything can top the 2014 first-round game against Kutztown when we came back from 2 goals down and won in overtime with a Jeff Brown bicycle kick. That was special.
“I hope we don't need that type of heroics Saturday, but if we do, we have the talent, determination and perseverance to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Winchester Thurston, an independent school in Pittsburgh with 715 students in grades K-12, is playing in its first state final.
Brown and Peslis both offered their advice to this year’s players.
“My advice ... when you’re out on the field, relax, play your game, take your chances, and above all else, enjoy one last game with your teammates,” Brown said.
“If I could give advice to this year’s players is to let loose and enjoy the moment,” Peslis said. “It’s a moment not many people get to experience and one you will remember for the rest of your life.