After a year of waiting for redemption, it didn't take long for Matt Berson to make his presence known in the Friends Schools League championship soccer game. After losing to the Shipley School in last year's finals, Berson -- now a senior -- and his teammates from the Germantown Friends School were determined to make amends in this season's championship game on Nov. 1.
With the game not even two minutes old, Berson shot one right into the back of the net.
The quick strike helped set the tone against Shipley, a team that certainly posed a challenge given that it competed for years in the tougher Inter-Academic League, but has since moved down to face easier competition in the Friends Schools League.
"We looked at Shipley as the team to beat," said Berson, who played left midfield. "After that goal, we knew we could hang with this team and we were better than this team."
Although Shipley made it interesting with a late goal, Germantown hung on to win the game, 3-2. It was the first time the boys team won the league championship since 1997.
Early in the season, however, things didn't look so rosy for Germantown. Berson dislocated his shoulder, the team suffered back-to-back losses, and it looked like getting revenge against Shipley might not be in the cards. So Berson and the 10 other seniors decided that the rest of the team should know where they stand.
"We got together and decided that this was our year, and we want to finish at No. 1," he said. "Every day at practice, we played all-out on every sprint."
A Solid Recovery
From that point on, the team turned things around. Berson's shoulder got better, and the team started winning -- finishing 15-3-1 and setting a school record for wins in a single season.
When the soccer team made it to the semi-finals against Friends Central, they found themselves locked in a 1-1 tie.
But shortly into overtime, Berson streaked down the sideline, received a pass and scored the game winner.
"I started running back, and jumping up and down," he recalled.
Off the field, Berson attends Congregation Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia, and wasn't shy about noting that he skipped a practice or two for the High Holidays at the season's outset.
The 18-year-old is also an accomplished sprinter and jumper on the track team. He is part of a four-man relay team that holds a Friends Schools League record for running the 4x100-meter relay in 43.3 seconds.
He hopes to play both sports in college and, although soccer is his first love, he may have a better shot at track, he noted.
He mentioned Haverford and Kenyon colleges as possible options.
"I like soccer better," noted Berson, "but I'm a better track athlete."