Marist Men’s Soccer coach, Matt Viggiano has great aspirations for his team. He is hoping to win the program’s first MAAC Championship and make the programs first NCAA tournament trip since 2005. Among these desires is a slight resurgence from his star midfielder, Allen Gavilanes.
A former First Team All-State at St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey, Gavilanes came to Marist in 2017, as one of their strongest recruits in recent history.
Gavilanes’ freshman year saw no disappointment as he came out and made an immediate impact. His 25 points and nine assists ranked second in the MAAC, while his eight goals were tied for third. Through just his first 18 collegiate games, Gavilanes had already established himself as one of the best players in the division. Not only did he win MAAC Rookie of the Year, but he was also awarded with the Offensive Player of the Year trophy.
After a successful first season from Gavilanes, Viggiano and the rest of the Red Foxes were expecting to see him develop into a key building block heading into the future. Despite Gavilanes’ contribution, the club would still have one of their worst seasons of the decade, only finishing with a 3-6-1 (.350 PCT) conference record.
In 2018, Gavilanes’ sophomore campaign fell short of expectations. While the team record improved vastly, going 6-2-2 in the conference, his production shockingly took a step back. Gavilanes was a huge part of the offense, his statistics declined in almost every category. Despite playing 22 more minutes compared to his freshman year, Gavilanes would score just five goals and tally six assists, for a total of only 16 points. His shooting percentage also went down .40 points, from .140% to .100%.
While the team’s defense improved a ton, surrendering 31 goals in 2017 to just 20 in 2018, the offense itself took a step back. Overall, despite the fact that they took the second most shots with 278, the team’s 1.39 goals per game were only tied for fifth in the MAAC. In a year in which Gavilanes already had experience, he and the team did not progress in a way that they wanted. Perhaps if both sides would’ve clicked, things could’ve turned out differently for the club. Gavilanes was still awarded with a First Team All-MAAC, for a player as talented as he is it’s safe to say he took a step back.
With the past behind him, Gavilanes insists on putting an effort this year on team focus. “Last year was definitely hard for me,” he said. “It’s not like I didn’t give it my all, but I definitely want to help them out a lot more.”
Now heading into his junior season, Gavilanes feels that enhanced maturity will be a huge factor, in terms of putting together a championship. “Whether it’s by assisting, scoring or lifting them mentally, I definitely want to help my teammates in the best way that I can,” he said. “I feel like I’m definitely more mature, now that I’ve been here for two years. It’s never an easy transition for a freshman, so making them feel comfortable on and off the field, helping them out in every aspect, will surely help us a bunch.”
“We have a really good group of guys that can beat any team,” he went on. “We just have to be focused, think that we’re going to win it, and believe in ourselves.”
In addition to a changed mindset, Gavilanes took his summer training to another level. He made sure to put emphasis on doing the important drills that are needed for success. “Rather than just going to the field and kicking around, it felt more like an intense training environment.” He spent significant time with his youth coach, working on physical skills, like his speed and agility. “Hopefully it correlates well, but we definitely put in some good time together.”
Having a much improved roster around him, according to Viggiano, Gavilanes feels more confident as soccer season begins. “I think our team is definitely a lot stronger than the past few years. We have a good core of veterans as well as freshmen that are going to make a direct impact.”
“We all have two collective goals in mind, winning the MAAC, and having a good run in the NCAA tournament.”
The Red Foxes have high hopes on their mind, in terms of ending their titles drought. Such a feat should be more than achievable, with a breakout year from Gavilanes.
Edited by Eros Rios-Tinoco