Bridesburg and Port Richmond starters return to action for the PCL soccer season
By Melissa Komar
High school soccer season is well underway, and the River Wards are well represented on the pitch at Roman Catholic High School.
Bridesburg’s Jared Dillon, 17, enters his fourth year as a varsity starter and two-year captain for the Cahillites.
Fellow River Wards teammate Kieran Donnelly, 16, hails from Port Richmond and enters his third year at Roman, his second as a captain.
While they play on opposite ends of the pitch, they both attribute their success partly to a strong neighborhood support system.
“Growing up, I played for Bridesburg, Philly Soccer and I also played CYO for Pope John Paul and St. George’s,” said Dillon, a forward. “ My dad would be the one that was most influential, as he has spent countless hours on a field with a bag of soccer balls and a soccer ladder. He would work all day, and we would be waiting for him as he got out of the car to go to the field. Coach Paul McMenemy, coach Lorino and my older brother Justin who pushed me to work harder than I ever thought possible.”
Donnelly, a center back, spent and still spends hours at neighborhood rec centers honing his skill.
“I spent a lot of my time playing at local playgrounds such as A&W and Samuels Rec with my friends. Aside from playing on my own, some of my friends and I grew up playing for PSC Coppa,” he said. “Also, on my off days, I work out on my own and play futsal with some former college and pro players from the neighborhood at Samuels Rec. Playing with those guys over the years has really raised my game to the next level and taught me a lot about the game.”
When they’re not busy practicing and playing, they are working on adding to their accolades.
A first-team All-Catholic and All-State selection for the 2017 season, Dillion was named Roman’s Offensive MVP last year.
“The accomplishment I am most proud of has to be Rookie of the Year award and the PCL plaque,” said Dillon in regard to the awards he has received over the years.
Donnelly cites his team recognizing his leadership.
“I am most proud of being named one of the captains of the team,” he said. “Being a leader is not easy and requires many skills. I’m honored that my coaches and my teammates believed that I possessed those skills and can fulfill that role for the team.”
While a win is always nice, passing on those leadership qualities are just as important to the River Wards players.
“My individual goal and team goals are to teach the younger players what it takes to be successful on and off the field,” Dillon said. “This way, when I have to pass the legacy to them, they will be prepared.”
“Our team’s main goal is, of course, to win the Catholic League. However, as coach Sean Dugan (a mentor for many guys on the team) would say, our goal is to become good men,” Donnelly said. “Some of my goals as an individual would be to be a great leader on the team and a role model for the younger guys. I plan to pick up my teammates and encourage them when they need it, and help my teammates mentally prepare for games.”
Focusing not only on individual goals, but team goals is a strategy the two hope will help them achieve the ultimate goal: winning the Philadelphia Catholic League championship.
Dillon was a freshman when the team hoisted the plaque; Donnelly is still waiting for a taste.
For Dillon, the memory of being crowned PCL champs is one that drives him forward, and one, like his leadership, he hopes to pass on.
“I have so many great memories but my favorite Roman soccer memory is winning the PCL. It is something you only dream of and it was the best feeling in the world,” he said. “I have won state championships, regionals and ODP championships but nothing compares to that moment. I am hoping to be able to share that moment this year with my teammates.”