He was a freshman, just getting his feet wet in college soccer. He was just trying to pick up on the system of a new team – a team headed to the national finals.
Now Georgios Spanos is the captain of the soccer team he joined three years ago. The senior represents both his current team and also the “old guard” of his 2003 team. As part of the last of that team, Spanos still remembers it well.
“It was the most special moment for me,” Spanos said. “The national finals is something you work for all year round. It’s the biggest moment of your college career, getting to that final game. So it’s all the emotions you’ve built up from the whole year going into that one day – that one game. I’ll cherish it the rest of my life.”
St. John’s soccer is a year-in and year-out player in the national ranks but the team that Spanos played for was one of the best.In 1992, during Dave Masur’s second year as head coach, the team made the NCAA Tournament. They’ve been there every year since. Since then, their record has been 217-60-41, a 78.3 winning percentage.
In 1996 they defeated Florida International 4-1 to win the national title and in 2003 they faced off against Indiana in the finals.
Although they lost 2-1 to Indiana, the defender thinks it was an important experience for him personally.
“It’s like a tease to get that far and lose,” he said. “[But] it makes me better to experience something like that.”
He feels that even though the team has changed dramatically from 2003, the core elements are still there. With Coach Masur around, the tradition stays alive – it’s just the people that are moving on.
Including redshirts, this team features 14 freshmen, many of which are playing significant roles on the team. It’s partially Spanos’ responsibility to be able to lead a young team while still keeping the same winning expectations.
It’s his job to be someone the freshmen can look up to and aspire to be. He has been through the Big East, been in the big games. He’s not only a player on the team but a model of years past.
But to him, it’s all a part of the cycle of tradition.
“Tradition is always going to be there,” he said. “We always hear about the guys that came before us. You want your name to be said four years after you’re done.”
As far as seeing guys leave and seeing guys jump aboard, he’s been through it all and he’s got the unique perspective of going from unproven rookie to veteran leader.
“Four years went by fast,” the defender said. “If you asked me [during freshmen year], if I think I’m going to wear the captain’s armband as a senior, I don’t know what I’d say to you. Now that I’m here doing it, it’s remarkable.”
He added: “I bleed red and white, it’s true.”
Now that he’s the captain of his team, he wants to enjoy his last year. But he also believes that this could be the year he wraps up the prize that he came so close to as a freshman.
“I think we can go all the way,” he said. “You can’t just say we’re going to have a mediocre season. If you say that, you’re going to be a mediocre player. And I didn’t come to St. John’s for that. I came to St. John’s to be a great player.”
And, apparently, to keep that attitude going.