SWANTON — MVU senior, Ryan Raleigh, netted three goals in the Thunderbirds’ 4-1 win over Spaulding on Friday, October 23.
The game’s first goal came on a pass to Raleigh within the first two minutes of play.
“The goalie came out, and the net was wide open. I jumped higher than the kid next to me and headed it in. I don’t think I’ve ever scored a header before,” said Raleigh.
“The second goal was on a penalty kick. I remember PJ Bouchard got the ball, he was in the box, and someone fouled him.
“It was 1-1 at the time, and Coach wanted me to take it. I did, and it went in.”
The Thunderbirds entered playoffs as the No. 11 seed.
“The Spaulding game was big for us; we’d be playing the number one seed in playoffs if we lost,” said Raleigh.
Raleigh’s third goal came on a free-kick at the edge of the box.
“Steven King was ten yards away. I passed him the ball, and he was going to slip, so he passed it back to me,” said Raleigh.
“Two kids came toward me. I did a fake cross and took it to the side. It was just the goalie and me, and I put a near post on him.”
After recounting the goals, Raleigh was quick to give credit to his teammates for their efforts.
“None of the goals were solo acts; they all came off of someone getting me the ball. It was a whole team effort,” said Raleigh.
Raleigh has appreciated many aspects of his MVU team this season.
“It’s weird being a senior. I’ve really enjoyed the closeness of the team; we all work hard and give it our all,” said Raleigh.
“It’s cool to watch the underclassmen come up and get better and know they are setting themselves up well for the rest of their soccer career.”
Raleigh grew up playing multiple sports, but soccer became his focus as he entered middle school.
“There’s something about soccer that is very satisfying--watching the team pass the ball around to create a goal,” said Raleigh.
Raleigh thanked his coaches for their help in developing his game.
“Coach Hubbard has helped me a lot. He’s been there for me the whole way. Matt Chevalier is our assistant coach, and it’s cool to have him around this year,” said Raleigh.
“Josh Bourdeau has got a good winners mentality, and he’s great with the fitness piece.
“I also learned so much from Gary LaShure in middle school.”
Raleigh, a four-year varsity starter, has been an everyday contributor for the Thunderbirds.
“We’ve put a lot of responsibility on Ryan over the years. He came in with a high knowledge of the sport and lots of ability,” said MVU coach Jim Hubbard.
“He’s a crafty and intelligent player, and he likes to carry the load. He wants the responsibility of being the leader.
“I’ve been very pleased to watch him grow. We’ve always expected so much from him, and he continues to grind and to work.”
Hubbard complimented Raleigh on his work ethic.
“Ryan was at every practice this summer, and he always left wringing wet. I know he realized that a lot would be on his shoulders his senior year,” said Hubbard.
“Ryan’s not vocal; he leads by example. He gives his all and everyone really respects and likes him. He’s a quiet leader.”
On the field, Raleigh’s game often draws the attention of the opposing team.
“He’s a flashy player with a lot of ability, and he draws so much defensive pressure and works through it,” said Hubbard.
“Ryan has started just about every game in his high school career, and he’s always one of the top forwards in the Lake Division. He’s a great kid and very humble.”
Raleigh comes from a long line of athletes.
“The Raleigh family has always been a sports family, and Ryan is no different,” said Hubbard.
Raleigh doesn’t take his sports’ heritage lightly. Anyone who’s seen the MVU boys play has probably noticed the 00 on his jersey.
“I wear that number for my uncle, John (Raleigh); he was a hard-working and bright person,” said Raleigh.
“I wear his number, and it reminds me to work hard. Wearing that number and playing for him is a really special thing.”
John Raleigh’s numbers were retired after he passed away, and only family members are allowed to wear them.
“It’s a special thing, and it’s a big motivation,” said Raleigh.
Although he never met John, Raleigh has heard plenty about him from his family.
“My uncle John is a big inspiration; I love to hear the old stories about him from my family,” said Raleigh.
When it comes to family, Raleigh also thanked his parents, Joe and Jenni, for their support.
“I wouldn’t have had any opportunities to do this without my parents. They are my biggest influences and role models,” said Raleigh.
“They instilled good personal values in my life, and that translates to sports--good sportsman, team player, staying humble.”