This month, Will Raphael ’18, Co-Captain of the 2017-2018 Andover Boys Soccer team, became a Division III Men’s Soccer National Champion with his undefeated Tufts University team.
Tufts defeated Calvin College 2-1 during regulation in Greensboro, N.C., to claim this title. According to Raphael, Tufts had its sights set on the winning the National Championship from the beginning.
“We were lucky enough to host every single round that we possibly could, so we had four home games, and we even had a first-round bye [since] we were the number-two seed going into the tournament. The environment is extremely different. People are playing with their heart on their sleeves. It was heightened intensity. We knew all along that the goal of the season was to get to the tournament and win the National Championship,” said Raphael.
Raphael began his soccer career with club teams at a young age and played on Andover’s JV team before making the Varsity team his Upper year.
“I started every single game as an Upper, played every minute, so kind of like a breakout year. That team was a really fun team to play with. We actually made it to the quarter finals of the [Nepsac] tournament. In my Senior year, I was lucky enough to be a captain of the team, and I actually moved into the midfield for that year,” said Raphael.
At Tufts, Raphael has transitioned into the backfield and contributed throughout Tuft’s 18-3-0 season.
Raphael said, “I’ve played in basically every single game and usually contributed some pretty good minutes. There were some games where I played half the game and ended up starting some games. I was lucky enough to play in the semi-final and final as well, which was an incredible experience.”
According to Tufts Soccer Head Coach Joshua Shapiro, Raphael quickly adapted to the collegiate level of play and made a positive impact on the field and team throughout the season.
Coach Shapiro wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Will is a very competitive and determined person. He is outgoing, confident, and a natural leader. He was not intimidated by the physicality of the college game and picked up our tactical ideas quickly, making him capable of helping defensively right away. He played crucial minutes in most games this season. I think his relentless will to win and compete all the time is a unique quality. It is rare that you find someone so dedicated to winning.”
Raphael attributes a large part of his success and development as a player to Andover Boys Soccer Head Coach Edwin Escobar’s support, as well as the experience he gained during his high school career.
“I think Coach Escobar definitely had a massive influence on the way I look at the game and play the game. He’s one of the best coaches there is. He’s really supportive of me. He’s kind of the reason I got on the field my Upper Year. I was able to show the team what I was able to do, and playing at Andover was a great experience. You get to play great competition in Class A, and that prepared me pretty well,” said Raphael.
According to Coach Escobar, Raphael, who was a part of the Western New England Prep School Soccer Association All-Star team his Senior year, demonstrated hard work and determination all throughout his time at Andover.
Coach Escobar said, “I had the opportunity to coach Will for three years while I was here. He’s just a hard worker. For him in the three years we had him here we watched him grow each year. It all had to do with just the intensity with which he did everything on the field, and even off the field. I think at a very young age he understood that all the best student athletes out there it’s not a switch that you can turn on and off. It’s just a habit of just working hard, and that’s what Will is.”
As a captain at Andover, Raphael made sure to lead by example and truly impacted each player of the team, according to current Andover Boys Soccer Co-Captain Henry Rogers ’19.
Rogers said, “His passion and determination on the field and during practice made us want to compete and to work as hard as he did. Everything he did was at full throttle and that mentality was something that he instilled in the team and especially the younger players. He had a commanding presence on our team but was also one to pick us up when we were feeling down or when we weren’t playing well enough and motivate us to get the next one.”
Looking forward, Raphael says he hopes to continue this past year’s success.
Raphael said, “The goal is to win three more of these National Championships. The [Juniors] here are still undefeated, so it’ll be really cool if we were able to do that for four years. It’s unlikely, but that’s the goal. There’s no better feeling than winning that National Championship, so we’d like to repeat that.”