Jeffrey Kao ’19
On the Cluster Soccer field, Jeffrey “Daddy” Kao ’19 resembles Cristiano Ronaldo, Jamie Vardy, and Per Mertesacker, according to his teammates.
A dedicated athlete in Cluster Soccer, Kao believes that his soccer talent is not limited to one area of the field or one specific skill.
Kao said, “I’d say my skills are defense, attack, ball control, speed, agility, pace, physicality, shooting, passing, and curve.”
Kao views his team, “I’ll Do Anything for a Six,” as a family and the most dominant force in the Cluster Soccer League.
“I like to think of my team as a family. Like, everyone’s in it together. So, my nickname is Daddy because it’s a family and someone needas to be the daddy,” said Kao.
“We are unbelievably successful. In Cluster Soccer, you can either measure the wins in goals or you can measure it in the fun had. I think that we always win on the fun had part,” he added.
According to Kao, as part of their strategy to success, they habitually arrive 15 minutes late to every game because of their pre-game ritual.
“Our special ritual is going to the gym before [games] and then getting to Cluster Soccer 15 minutes late. It really plays with the mental game of the other team because they see us come in and we’re jacked after just going to the gym, and the coaches are screaming at us for being late for, like, the twentieth time. And then we just clap them, and it’s an easy win,” he said.
Fiona Kass ’19
Fiona Kass ’19, a star defender on team GirlBall, brings years of experience absorbing pain and numerous miscellaneous injuries to the Cluster Soccer fields. According to Kass, she is great at taking blows to the head, stomach, and back, as well as any other body parts that could potentially be targeted.
Kass, who believes she best resembles Lionel Messi, feels extremely attracted to Cluster Soccer and has selflessly put herself in harm’s way to be a successful Cluster athlete. Although they have never won a game, she feels that GirlBall is the dominant team.
“We’ve never won, but in another sense, we’ve won every game,” said Kass.
Kass uses an unprecedented strategy to “win” games: distracting her opponents using creative measures.
Kass said, “I’m great at using alternative methods to distract my opponents: for example, yelling directly at them then stealing the ball. [I also like] asking my opponents questions during the game to distract them and getting mad when they don’t respond.”
Kass’s highlight of the Cluster Soccer year so far is scoring a beautiful goal early in the season.
“The first game of the year, I scored from my side of the field. It was pretty exceptional,” said Kass.
Fellow Cluster All-Star Jeffrey Kao ’19 said that he believes Kass has excellent talent on the Cluster Soccer field in more ways than just technically.
Kao said, “I think I’m not as good as her because I can’t scream ‘GirlBall’ as loudly.”
Kass’s skill may have come from many years of playing soccer before she came to Andover. Regardless of the countless physical blows she has taken in the sport, Kass continues to exhibit her love and devotion for Cluster Soccer.
Kass cited the people as one of the reasons Cluster Soccer is so fun for her, even if they are the ones inflicting bodily harm on her.
Puru Sankar ’20
A self-proclaimed nightmare for his opponents, Puru Sankar ’20 is a threat on both sides of the ball. This year, Sankar has returned to his previous soccer glory after many years away from the sport. In just his first season of Cluster Soccer, Sankar has been recognized as an All-Star, which does not come as a surprise to the breakout player.
Sankar wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Well, personally, I like to consider myself a humble person. Looking through the list of players enrolled in Cluster Soccer, my skill set and talent are almost unmatched, and therefore I’m not surprised about my All-Star status.”
Sankar has earned the nickname the “Brick Wall” due to his strong defensive play all season. Sankar, however considers himself a two-way player.
“It shows during the game — how dominant I am on the offensive side of the ball. On the defensive side, I’m commonly known as the ‘Brick Wall’ because it’s extremely hard for someone to pass me. In goal, I’m a nightmare for the opposing team, making all their efforts to score completely useless,” wrote Sankar.
As a player with immense talent, Sankar hears criticism frequently, especially in regards to his large stature. Fellow Cluster Soccer All-Star Ugo Ogonuwe ’20 was quick to call out Sankar for the advantages his size grants him.
“If Puru were a little bit shorter he would be a little better at the game, but I’d say Puru’s tall stature helps him,” said Ogonuwe.
“The best part of soccer was being able to play a friendly, yet competitive game against my friends. Being able to spend the time after school with some friends playing soccer was a new experience for me, since this was my first time playing Cluster Soccer at [Andover],” wrote Sankar.
Sankar looks forward to another year of Cluster Soccer.
Clara Steiner ’19
Looking for a relaxing and low-commitment sport, Clara Steiner ’19 was encouraged by her friends to join Cluster Soccer and play for Girlball. Girlball is the league’s only girls team, but due to low numbers, several boys are on the team as well.
In an email to The Phillipian, Steiner said, “I’m on GirlBall, which is the Cluster Soccer team with all the girls and, because there were not enough girls this year, a few boys were allowed to join, provided that they understand that the women on GirlBall are and will always be in charge and are to be respected at all times.”
Despite the motivation and energy on the team, GirlBall had a less than stellar record of all losses aside from a single tie.
Steiner said, “[Despite our record], our spirit and attitude remained positive throughout the season, making us the real winner in my eyes.”
Steiner’s experience has helped her develop and deepen many interpersonal relationships that will last a lifetime. GirlBall gave Steiner the opportunity to strengthen her commitment to teammate Fiona Kass ’19.
Steiner said, “I have made the deepest friendships and closest relationships, specifically the bond between me and my fiancé Fiona Kass, who I proposed to on the very same fields our love started on.”
Steiner’s time playing for GirlBall will forever hold a place in her heart due to the many accomplishments and milestones she experienced. The trials and tribulations of a cluster sport taught Steiner to appreciate humor and levity despite challenges or setbacks.
Steiner said, “I will always look back fondly at the numerous falls and fails of both my teammates and opponents. It’s important to see humor in an otherwise stressful world. Mistakes are seen as moments to learn and laugh on GirlBall, and praising the positive rather than focusing on the negative has always been important to every member of the team.”
Oliver Budiman ’20
In just his first year of Cluster Soccer, Oliver “Lucky Strike” Budiman ’20 has burst onto the scene as a true superstar, possessing previously unwitnessed talent and work ethic.
According to Budiman, it means a lot for him to receive the title of 2018 Cluster All-Star; after his success on the intramural field, Budiman hopes to make an appearance on the collegiate level in the nearsighted future.
Budiman said, “I put so much hard work into my craft. Cluster Soccer really is an intense sport. It is the pinnacle of Andover Soccer… We compete at a high level. I think I might be recruited for a college intramural team.”
Budiman continued, “I think the adrenaline of playing such a high-stakes sport and the fact that I am surrounded by players of such great skill leads me to work harder.”
According to Budiman, there were many unforgettable moments during this season. Despite his continuous success, Budiman only humbly acknowledges his athletic ability.
“[The highlight of my season] was definitely that day when I dropped eight goals on Ugo [Ogonuwe ’20] and the rest of his team. I am pretty sure I broke a few cluster soccer records. I don’t think anyone had ever scored eight goals in a game until me.”
Budiman, commonly known as a pioneer of excellence, said that his eight-goal outburst was just a handful of goals compared to his season total.
“I haven’t been counting but I think to my last estimation, before my last game, I had 66 goals. And I had a hat trick in my last game, so around 69 goals, I think,” said Budiman.
According to himself, as someone that possesses tremendous sportsmanship, Budiman only lets his modesty waver after scoring.
“Normally when I score a goal, I run to an opponent that has been bad-mouthing me, and I put my hand to my ear and lean towards them,” he said.
According to Budiman, with extreme talent comes colossal motivation. When asked about what sparks his motivation to play at such an elite level, Budiman had only one answer.
“I do everything for my fans and my teammates. Especially my fans.”
Ugo Ogonuwe ’20
“The ball came and I kicked it, and it went straight up and it stayed in the air for about five seconds. The ball came back down, hit someone on my team, and went inside our goal,” said Cluster All-Star Ugo O’Gonuwe ’20 on his most memorable play.
Ogonuwe has led Team GirlBall with his extensive soccer knowledge. O’Gonuwe played soccer for six years until sixth grade, when he suffered what he thought to be a horrific, career-ending knee injury. Following his return to the game this fall, there is no doubt that O’Gonuwe will go down as one of Cluster Soccer’s all-time greats.
Many of his competitors believe this award was well-deserved, including fellow Cluster All-Star Puru Sankar ’20.
Sankar wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “There is one player I believe correctly earned the Cluster All-Star status, and his name is Ugo. His natural and incredible athleticism is off the charts and allows him to be an all-time Cluster Soccer great. His massive build allows him to be successful in goal, and his coordination, speed, and agility contributed to the insane number of goals he scored this season. I’m also truly humbled by his greatness as a goalie.”
O’Gonuwe claims his team, GirlBall, should have made it to the finals. Despite not bringing home the championship, he enjoys playing on his team and even embraces the name.
“I’m on GirlBall, a girls team. I’d say that the term ‘GirlBall’ was pretty much coined by our group in and off the field,” said O’Gonuwe.