Let's start with you. What's your story, how did you come to Wolves FC?
I actually had a very interesting path in joining this team, which at the point that I joined, was named Wolfpack. A lot of the guys in the league grew up playing competitively in high school/college, or for academy teams. I didn’t do any of that. I had played very little on a full field outside of low level travel for 2 or 3 years in high school. I took a few years off after that and that got back into playing again in smaller sided indoor games at a local facility. One of the guys on the team was telling me that his BDSL team was looking for a new keeper and I went for a “tryout” and they ended up keeping me on.The first year (2015) was a little iffy due to inexperience and having to re-adjust myself to playing on a full field and facing some high level competition. The next few years were a steady ascension for the team and myself and here we are going into my 5th year with the team and 1st year running it solely by myself.
So tell us about your club name, why Wolves?
When i first joined the squad, it was named Wolfpack. They were founded in 2008 and held that up until this upcoming season. Last year was the previous manager’s final season, and it was left to me, so I thought I would switch it up a bit and put my own spin on it. I wanted to keep some semblance of the tradition that was laid before me, but also wanted to make it my own.
The badge is reminiscent of another Wolves (Wolverhampton), is that the inspiration/connection?
There is definitely a fair amount of inspiration. Originally, when I was switching everything over, I was looking at a multitude over color options. Yellow and black was one of them, keeping red and black was also a thought, but I really love the way that sky blue and navy blue work together. I gave my friend Josh (shout out Big Rawd) a few layout options, the Wolverhampton logo being one of them, but the big thing was to not copy them directly. So i kept the circle of our previous logo as opposed to the hexagonal layout. The actual wolf logo, I gave him free reign on, but wanted it to be as simple as possible.Just lines inside a circle. And a color layout that would pop on a light and a dark jersey. He absolutely crushed it.
Tell us about the BDSL - What's the level of play in the league? What's the best part of the league? What level do you play in?
The BDSL stands for Buffalo District Soccer League. There are six divisions ranging from Premier to 3rd division that play on Sunday’s and includes an over 35 division that plays on Friday nights.Throughout the six divisions, there is heavy completion. There are so many talented players spread across all divisions and thats what keeps it so competitive. Once the season kicks in, a high majority are so enamored with it and thats what keeps the league going. We also have the Tehel Cup that teams from Premier, Championship, and 1st division are entered in on Thursday’s. Teams in divisions 2 and 3 and O35 are given the option to declare for the Tehel Cup, but there is a Wood Cup that most, if not all, declare for. These are all knockout stage matches, akin to the NCAA Tournament, with the winner of the Tehel Cup being entered into regional competition. There is always a couple upsets in these cup tournaments which keep interesting.
Which club do you look forward to playing every year and why?
Seeing as this is our second year in Premier, I think it’s tough to gauge which club we look forward to playing every year. Going back to before I was on the team, there was a rivalry with Queenston FC while both were in the Championship division, with Queenston moving up to Premier the year I joined. We played Queenston to a pretty equal game this past year, so I am eager to see how we match up this year. Great group of guys over there too. Over those three years we’ve always had tough games against Southtowns FPFC. We’ve drawn them three out of the four years and they beat us in between that. But in the Championship final in 2017, we edged them 1-0. So I feel like that is probably considered one of our new age rivals. I would definitely say that Williamsville Willies are a team could be considered a rival also. They are young, and have skilled and fast group of players that can be quite cocky leading up to game day and during the game. However, they are a great group of guys after the final whistle, and that is what keeps our league so fun. Since their inception, they’ve moved up the ladder a few times, albeit artificially the past two years. We tied them in the regular season in 2017, and then had an absolutely excellent game in the Semifinals in 2017, which ultimately sealed our promotion into premier. They moved up due to a team that was relegated folding, and two premier teams merging. This year, we played them in another great game with us prevailing 1-0. They were relegated last year, but ultimately survived the drop due to another team dropping down a few divisions. There are always the top three teams in our division that are a tough out,(Raiders, Sharpshooters, and BUSS) and any chance you have to beat them is something to look forward to. Especially BUSS. I have a feeling that could be a fun one this year.
What sort of style does Wolves FC play?
In the past, we’ve played a strong defensive style, with most of our scoring coming off long balls, and counter attacking. Regardless of what happened last year, it is definitely something that we are trying to get away from. Our strong defensive core has been improved upon greatly from front to back. So, that will always be there. We have a fair amount of speed on the wings and in the midfield, along with size and technical ability spread throughout that. So I am definitely looking to attack more this year and hold more possession. Ultimately, I would love to see us be a physical and smart team on defense, and then build out from the back and into the midfield and knock the ball around a bit more. That would pay dividends. We have built a very strong team in the sense that everyone goes out there and plays for each other week in and week out. Yes, it can get a little heated at points, but that is one thing that we have put a ton of pride in. If you put a group of people together who are more worried about the common goal, then that will take you further than individual talent will.
Tell us about a couple of your players we should know about?
I have a hard time putting a spotlight on any select players. We returned 12 players from last year and then added 10 new guys to supplant that. I could write paragraphs about each guy, but each one will tell you that it is more about the team than anything else. I want to applaud each of them for buying into that. Everyone plays their part and like I said before, that will take any group further than any individual.
Any interesting traditions in the club?
I’m not too sure that I would call them traditions, but I would definitely say we have a solid reputation of being one of the partying teams in our league.The camaraderie is such a huge part of our team make up. We have a strong contingent that will go out with each other the night before games, go golfing with each other the day before games, team barbecues, and ALWAYS go out and smoke beers at our sponsor bar post game, win or lose. And, we happen to throw legendary beer blasts that I invite every one from the league to come out to. We have rented a house down in ski country for a weekend in the months following the season for a few years, minus this past year. The majority of the team comes down for a night or two and we hang out, drink, go and watch EPL at one of the breweries and then drink some more. Hoping to get that back on track this year.
What's the best soccer memory you have about Wolves FC?
Theres quite a few actually. Winning the Championship division in 2017 after all the ups and down the previous manager, Chris Moonan, went through. Finally getting to Premier after being so close the year before was a testament to his work. I do think the one that trumps that is our whole first season in Premier. Going into the season, most viewed us as a team that would be relegated. We faced perennial powerhouse BSC Raiders the first game, and didn’t play bad considering our opponent, but obviously lost. We then faced Queenston, and were up 2-0, with a few chances to expand that lead, but couldn’t convert. We ended up tieing that game on a fluke cross that ended up being mishit, and ended up floating upper side netting. But we came together and won the next two games against Soho and Willies. We had a pretty rough stretch for four or five games, starting against Willies where we only had 11-12 guys show up for every game. We lost to Sharpshooters in the last minute (which we could have won), lost to BUSS, tied Southtowns, then got smoked by Lackawanna, and lost to Clarence. Going into the last two games it was pretty much fighting off relegation. The East Aurora team forfeited our game and then we ended up having one game left against Celtic United. Going into the game, if either team had won, that team would be going to the playoffs. We ended up going up 3-0 into half time and then they got 2 back, but we held it together to earn that last spot. We thought it was awesome being able to play in a playoff game our first year in Premier. So we were pretty loose going into the game. We ended up playing BUSS. It was an absolutely wild game. We scored probably ten or so minutes off a free kick and held tight for the next 55 minutes and they scored 2 between the 65th and 70th minute. So it seemed like the season was over, but we scored a gritty goal in the 86th or so minute and then realized we had a fighting chance. The first ot was a feeling out process, and going into the second ot, it just felt like we had to go for it. We had made it this far, so we might as well go for it. Pressure wasn’t really on us. we ended up scoring on a net mouth scramble off a free kick a few minutes into the second ot, and faced a barrage in the remaining time. But we held on. I think it may be one of the greatest upsets the league has seen to this day. Great team effort. We ended up facing Raiders in the the semis the following week. We held strong for the first half, but their ability was just too much for us in the second half. Very proud of every member of last years team for what they did for Chris in his last season and what is enabling us to continue.
How important is local soccer/regional leagues?
I can’t begin to tell you how important local and regional soccer is. The sense of community that this league has is fantastic. From all divisions. The whole attitude is mostly positive from every one. There have been so many relationships that have been created from this league. From game day, and seeing your friends on your side of the ball and opposing sides is a ton of fun. I will say that i didn’t realize the importance of the regional aspect of it until last weekend when i had the chance to travel with Raiders and play against Christos FC. I was extremely fortunate to be able to represent my team, league and city in this game. I think thats the most important thing, its an amateur/beer league, but still having the opportunity to play for the chance to represent your team, league and city in those games is an extremely cool thing to do.