Students in graduation
1997 & '98 Soccer Teams being inducted in St. Benedict's Hall of Fame on Nov. 30


1997 National Champions

November 2022
By Susan Kronberg

For the 1997 and 1998 soccer teams, the game was played not only with their feet, but also with their hearts; and winning became a tradition passed from team to team with the same precision as the ball they passed from player to player. The first teams in the history of The Hive to capture back-to-back National Championships, they will be inducted to the St. Benedict’s Hall of Fame on Nov. 30. Joining them on the dais will be the teams’ head coach Rick Jacobs H’90, an institution of Benedict’s soccer for 25 years until his departure in 2011.

The 1997 Team: “I’m in it for the love!”

The motto emblazoned on the backs of their training shirts, “I’m in it for the love” represented the common thread – the shared love of the game – that fueled players on and off the field. Finishing their championship season with a record of 22-1-1, the 1997 team showed tremendous determination by turning things around after a shocking loss in the first game of the season against Holy Ghost Prep of Pennsylvania.

“After all of our preparation, we went out and lost 2-1,” recalls Jacobs, citing the absence of talented forward Jordan Quinn, who was out due to an illness. Quinn, who went on to star at the University of South Carolina, didn’t miss a game for the remainder of ’97 and all of ’98; and the Gray Bees never lost another game during that span, either.

“Quinn likes to make sure we all remember that,” he jokes.

Matt Abrahamson, Carlos DeBrito, Marcio Olivera and Chris Pinto wore the captain’s armband in ’97, while Eric Suarez and Matt Veltri provided plenty of firepower, combining for 19 goals.

A seminal moment for the season came in a “huge and nasty battle” against Strath Haven of Pennsylvania, a game riddled with yellow cards as both teams aimed to preserve their individual 18-game winning streaks. A violent tackle delivered by Chris Pinto upon the rival’s best player fueled the ultimately triumphant Gray Bees, once again exhibiting grace under pressure and trust in each other.

Register for St. Benedicts's 2022 Hall of Fame Dinner on November 30

The 1998 Team: “Success is Never Final”

A line borrowed from the late Charlie Cawley ‘58, “Success is Never Final” served as a reminder that they were only as good as the next season. The 1998 team was the culmination of what the 1997 team started, a team Jacobs calls “one of the most dominant teams” of his 25-year career as the Gray Bee coach. Boasting an undefeated season with a record of 24-0, they played “fast, loose, and nasty,” with confidence and a willingness to sacrifice for each other.

                         1998 National Champions

Scoring 132 goals while giving up only four, the ’98 Gray Bees shut out 20 of 24 opponents with players like Carmelho Senzano in goal, who was fronted by stalwarts such as Guy Abrahamson (14 goals, 13 assists), New Jersey’s State Player of the Year in both 1997 & ’98, Carlos Gonzalez, Jordan Quinn (24 goals, 16 assists), Israel Mejia and Cesar Cuellar (47 goals). Guy Abrahamson, Julio Nosta and Ismoney Cunha were the captains in ’98 when St. Benedict’s went unbeaten against New Jersey competition for the sixth straight season.. 

How History is Made

Sweat, grit, determination, talent, hard work – all those elements existed in spades in every teammate, every aspect of the SBP mystique. But it was the unique experience lived during two preseasons at the Abrahamson’s home in Seaside at the Jersey Shore that set the stage for this dynamic duo of teams to embrace SBP’s championship culture.

“I will always be indebted to the Abrahamson family for sharing their house with SBP Soccer, allowing us a retreat to lay the groundwork for journaling, discussing our history and traditions, and practicing the rituals that became so much of the fabric of St. Benedict’s soccer,” says Jacobs.

Dismissing the idea of a secret formula, Jacobs will say only that “it has always been about listening and learning, and knowing that some days you’re the teacher and some days you’re the student.” Lessons passed from coach to player, player to coach, with trust and love the cornerstones of these two history-making teams.

“Knowing when to push them and when to pull back for a hug is the hallmark of any cohesive and successful team,” asserts Jacobs. “These two teams had those qualities in abundance.”

The Benedict’s Way

Induction to the St. Benedict’s Hall of Fame is an affirmation not only to celebrate, but also to reflect upon for how it solidified and elevated the SBP Soccer dynasty.

"In retrospect, our 1990 National Championship Team showed us what was possible,” said Jacobs. “The 1997 and 1998 teams announced that we were not a one hit wonder on a national high school soccer stage. Our sustained success between 1990 and 1996 paved the way for the 1997 and 1998 teams to stand on the shoulders of the players and coaches that came before them. The history, rituals, and traditions of the Monks of Newark Abbey allowed soccer to establish its own Benedict's Soccer Way.

“We were different: how we played, how we carried ourselves, how we respected the game, and how we so desperately trained and played for each other EVERY day! We were in it for the love and learned that success is NEVER final."