On Sunday, November 17, the Concord Academy boys varsity soccer team traveled to Windsor, Conn., to do what many dream of doing: competing on behalf of their school for a regional championship.
With 15 minutes left to play, CA was tied with two-time NEPSAC champions Holderness School at 2-2. Following a corner kick from Charlie Apolinsky ’22, Taha Kina ’20 literally rose to the occasion by bringing the score to 3-2 in what would become the game winning goal. Playing under overcast skies, with wind and the temperature hovering in the 30s, CA held strong against the tough conditions and the Holderness offense to win the first outright NEPSAC Championship in the program’s history.
“It’s the culmination of all the hard work we’ve put in these last four years,” says co-captain Taha Kina ’20, who will be playing for the Division I Brown University team next year. “We’ve been close to achieving this goal in the past and to finally do it is really special. Winning this year was especially exciting because it’s my senior year and now we know we’ve left a lasting legacy on CA soccer. It was by far the best day of my soccer career and I’m so thankful to have been a part of such a historic season.”
While this is the boys soccer program’s first outright NEPSAC title, it is the third NEPSAC Championship title in the past four years for CA. (In 1988, the team made it to the championship game but was named co-champions when the game had to be canceled due to weather.) Both the girls squash team and the boys cross-country team have won their own championships in recent years. Of the last eight seasons, the boys varsity soccer team has advanced to the NEPSAC tournament seven times, and, impressively, in five straight seasons. They have won Eastern Independent League (EIL) titles twice in the past three seasons, in 2017 and 2019.
Coming into this season, longtime coach Adam Simon, who came to CA in the 1990s but starting coaching soccer in 1999, was hopeful. “We knew we’d be right at the top of the league — we have such a strong group of players,” he says. “We thought we had a good shot at the league, but to win New Englands? It just really special.”
Simon’s focus as a coach is not on “X’s and O’s,” as he puts it, but on team culture. “As I said in the huddle that day, our goal is to come together as a group, and if we can accomplish that, the rest will follow — and it did,” he says. “We have a very strong team culture that is really consistent with the school’s values. We support each other — that’s the foundation for everything. And we’re kind. I’m always proud of our boys when they pick their opponents up off the grass, and they do it all the time. I like to think that those lessons translate beyond soccer.”
CA Athletics Director Sue Johnson says, “What an impressive season and tournament run by boys soccer this fall. Their commitment to training hard, selfless play, and team soccer led them to attain the highest level of achievement possible for CA teams. We are so proud of their accomplishments!”
Those are accomplishments that Coach Simon attributes to the community. “This doesn’t happen without the entire community,” he says. “I honestly feel so grateful. From my heart of hearts, I think the whole community takes part in that trophy. It does take a village, and this village is so special. We’re doing something right here, now more than ever.”
Cick here for more information on the Concord Academy website.