Savannah Sister Schools Gearing Up for Soccer Season: St. Vincent's and Benedictine Preview

By Nathan Domintz/Special to Prep Sports Report | February 14, 2024

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What's new this season for St. Vincent's and Benedictine soccer programs?


St. Vincent's Girls Preview


New Coaches, Familiar Faces: St. Vincent's Blends Experience and Youth for Title Run


After three of her players were introduced to local media, Sarah Stewart said as an aside but loud enough to be heard, "I wish I was playing, but we're coaching this year."


Alas, Stewart has exhausted her eligibility after being a three-sport star at St. Vincent's Academy, including for the soccer team that won a GHSA Class 2A state title in her senior season in 2017.


Stewart went on to play volleyball in college and has returned to her alma mater for her first season as co-head coach of the soccer squad. The other co-head coach is Ciara Thomas, an assistant the previous two seasons under Katie Knight and a former star athlete who coached Stewart in club soccer at Savannah United.


Stewart is excited to be back at SVA, an elite program that has 11 seniors returning from the 2023 squad, which went 13-4 and 7-0 in Region 3-3A. The Saints lost to Bremen 2-1 in double overtime in the Class 3A semifinals.

PHOTO: Front Row (l-r): Alexis Spisso, Mary Grace Meyers, & Haley Beddow 

Back Row (l-r): Co-head coaches - Ciara Thomas and Sarah Stewart


"We went to the final four last year and a heartbreaking loss, so I think we have a lot of grit and determination to get back to where we were," Thomas said at the inaugural Optim Orthopedics/Prep Sports Report Soccer Media Day on Saturday, Feb. 3.


"I do think merging the younger class with our junior and senior classes will be our biggest obstacle, but I think it's something the girls have been working really hard on and it's definitely getting better week by week," Thomas continued.


Senior center midfielder MaryGrace Meyers, who was injured last season, is back and said that after the younger players "get all the fresh nerves out," they'll be ready.


"Our strength is we have a lot of versatile players," Meyer said. "They're willing to play anywhere on the field, which helps us tremendously because they're not scared of any position and they step up big when we need it."


Experienced players who have played big when needed include three attending the media day: Meyers, senior center back Haley Beddow and junior center midfielder Alexis Spisso, who said that teamwork and communication are strengths of the team.


Beddow added that the squad has "a bunch of hard workers."

"Everybody's willing to do what it takes to get the job done," Beddow said, and she could have been describing her co-head coaches as well.


Benedictine Soccer Preview


Testing Their Mettle: Benedictine Cadets Embrace Grueling Schedule in Pursuit of State Title


A 1-3 start wouldn't concern Cadets coach Charles Moore. Neither would losing five of the first eight games.


That was the case in 2023 for the perennial state title contender, and that strong slate didn't prevent Benedictine (14-6) from reeling off 11 straight victories to reach the GHSA Class 4A semifinals.


"We've got a difficult program because we always work it that way," Moore said at the inaugural Optim Orthopedics/Prep Sports Report Soccer Media Day on Saturday, Feb. 3.

PHOTO: Benedictine Head Coach Charlie Moore


"Our schedule is hard and it's meant to be hard. We're not bothered about records. My record is great over the years. I'm not bothered about my record."


It's about the big prizes, as Benedictine regularly wins its region (going 7-1 in Region 3-4A in 2023) and pursues the most elusive target, a state championship. The Cadets were formerly in GHSA Class 2A and captured state crowns in 2017 and 2018. They've moved up since to Class 3A and now 4A.


"Since we've been in Class 4A, we have never done worse than the elite eight and have made the (semifinals)," Moore said. "It's not our last season in 4A. Because of reclassification, the region's changing for us in 2025. So it'd be nice this year to win (state). But that's a big ask. This team, if they do what they can do, anything's possible."


Moore, in his 12th season at Benedictine after a stellar tenure at St. Andrew's School, really likes this 2024 edition of the Cadets.

He acknowledges that the program graduated key players such as midfielders Ryan Fabrizio and Asher Sigmon and goalkeeper Liam McClimans. Fabrizio was the Region 3-4A Player of the Year after recording 21 goals and 10 assists. McClimans (eight shutouts) was the region's goalie of the year, and all three were first-team all-region, along with returning players Asher Herrin (now a sophomore midfielder) and Andrew Kuyoth (senior defender).


Moore expects "a great freshmen class" to produce two or three starters.

"I would look at us this year and say a very, very exciting mix of youth and experience," said Moore, who had a couple of friends interact with the team in the preseason.


One is a sports psychologist for West Ham United of the Premier League, who over video conference calls helped the players with their mental preparation and team bonding. Another special guest was John Murphy, former head coach of the Georgia Southern University men's soccer team.

The Cadets take on a very challenging non-region schedule including Camden County, Greater Atlanta Christian, Richmond Hill, Glynn Academy, May River (Bluffton, S.C.), Johnson, Savannah Country Day, South Effingham and the Academy for Classical Education (ACE) of Macon.


"I'm looking for us to go as deep as possible," Moore said. "The last eight (quarterfinals) is achievable. A semifinal is possible. One better is possible. We'll see."


PHOTO Credit: Optim Orthopedics marketing Department

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Optim Orthopedics is a well-known name in Savannah's high school sports community, providing crucial medical support to local high schools. Prep Sports Report basketball coverage is presented by Optim Orthopedics.   They have dedicated fellowship-trained Orthopedics Surgeons, including Dr. David Sedory for Benedictine Military, Bradwell Institute, and Liberty County, Dr. David Palmer for Calvary Day, Richmond Hill, and South Effingham, and Dr. Thomas Alexander for Savannah Country Day and St. Vincent's. Optim Orthopedics's commitment to local athletes runs deep. They are proud sponsors of the Prep Sports Report, whose motto is, "Optim Orthopedics gets you back into the game

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The "Coach" Karl DeMasi has been teaching and coaching for the past 35 years on all levels of academia and athletics. One of his hobbies has been writing, announcing and talking about sports. DeMasi has been involved in the Savannah Area sports scene since 1995, and he created the high school magazine "The Prep Sports Report" in 2000. In 2010, the "Coach" started broadcasting The Karl DeMasi Sports Report. He's still going strong, broadcasting on Facebook live and Twitter live every Saturday morning. You gotta love it!

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