From the moment Allen Gavilanes came into this world, he was destined to play soccer. Growing up in North Plainfield, New Jersey, Gavilanes immersed himself in a culture built around the sport. His parents gave him a ball at the tender age of four. Following his first few touches, a passion quickly developed.
Gavilanes began his high school career at North Plainfield High School, before transferring to play at St. Benedict’s Prep his junior year. St Benedict’s, one of the best prep schools in the country, allowed him to showcase his talent on a bigger stage. Gavilanes was able to compete in some of the biggest tournaments in the country in front of top Division I programs.
“If I did not make that move, I don’t know where I would be now because St. Benedict’s put me on a pedestal,” Gavilanes said. “It was such a great time going there and I definitely feel like I matured a lot more not just on the field but off the field.”
Not only did his game develop at St. Benedict’s, but also at the club level with the East Brunswick Soccer Club. With East Brunswick, he won a state championship and eventually ranked first at the club level. During this time, Gavilanes received many offers from top Division I schools, but an ankle injury suffered during his senior year scared them away. He missed five games, and many schools retracted their offers.
“Marist was always there from the beginning,” Gavilanes said when asked about his decision to become a Red Fox.
He credits assistant coach Ricky Cusano for his consistently in checking to see how he was doing. Gavilanes loved the campus and the distance from home was a perfect fit, as it was not too far but not too close.
Marist Head Coach Matt Viggiano saw the talent and potential in Gavilanes when recruiting him.
“He had an ability to do things normal players can’t do, he is a very creative player,” said Viggiano. When asked about Gavilanes’s offers, Viggiano added, “I think he was overlooked because of his size.”
Gavilanes showed his natural talent with an outstanding freshman season, scoring a team-highs in goals (eight) and assists (nine). Gavilanes received the MAAC Offensive Player of the Year and the MAAC Rookie of the Year. He credits St. Benedict’s for preparing him for the college level with excellent training programs and summer workouts.
“I feel like they just set me up perfectly to just come into the college level and perform at my best,” Gavilanes added.
Some players get blinded after strong freshman seasons, but he remained focused on the process.
“If I get complacent it could be a quick fall,” Gavilanes said. “I always like to think about my family and how I’m doing it for them. I’ve never been one to ease off.”
He also credited his teammates and coaches for keeping him motivated during the offseason. Gavilanes went on to have a strong sophomore and junior season, where he led the team in assists and made the All-MAAC First Team both seasons.
“He’s unselfish and he’s willing to make the right play. He gives us the ability to break teams down, and it makes us dangerous offensively,” Viggiano stated. “He’s a game-changer, and you can’t teach that. We could be getting shut down for 85 minutes, then in the final five minutes Allen can get us a goal.”
Gavilanes’s first three seasons culminated in his selection to the All-MAAC 40th anniversary team earlier this month. Gavilanes is more than deserving as in his three years he has scored 20 goals and tallied 22 assists. He was on the All-MAAC First Team every season and was the MAAC Offensive Player of the Year his freshman season. His nine assists in 2017 rank among the MAAC leaderboards for the most assists in a single season and his 22 career assists are the most in the MAAC era.
“That was a nice award to get considering I haven’t finished college yet,” Gavilanes said. “To be on that list is an honor, and I’m truly blessed. Without my teammates, I wouldn’t be there.”
“It’s an honor for him, and that’s great company for him,” said Viggiano. “We have currently one of the best, if not the best player in the conference, it makes us a contender to win a title.”
Although the fall season was canceled and there is uncertainty in regards to a spring season, Gavilanes’s goals remain the same.
“Our goal before the season starts is to win a MAAC championship,” he said.
While Gavilanes remains focused on the upcoming season, he continues to think about the possibility of playing professionally.
“Yeah, God willing. That’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid,” Gavilanes said. “That’s a dream that I’d like to achieve in the near future.”
Edited by Bridget Reilly & Jonathan Kinane