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Four Illinois natives join forces on BG men’s soccer team

Eric Burgasser
Men’s Soccer

Growing up nearly five hours away, playing soccer both with and against each other for 10 years, four BG men’s soccer players found themselves playing alongside each other once again on the Bowling Green men’s soccer team.

The quartet of players made their way from Naperville, Illinois, having played for three of the five different high schools in Naperville.

However, each of them wound up playing alongside one another on the same club team, Galaxy SC, when their high school season was over.

Their travel soccer coach, Brett Strang, a BG alum, won the Mid-American Conference tournament and played in the NCAA tournament in his time at BG.

Thus, Strang kept them updated on BG soccer and suggested Bowling Green as an option for continuing their soccer careers. They followed in the footsteps of Strang as well as a few other former Galaxy SC players including 2013 graduate and former BG goalkeeper, Michael Wiest.

After a few campus visits and a good word from their club coach, the four of them eventually made their way to BG.

Now, combining for 59 starts and 23 goals scored this season, they have helped lead the Falcons to their best record in 17 years and their first winning record since 2000.

There is much more to this group of players than just results on the field, however.

Max Auden and Danny Shea, redshirt sophomores at BG, as well as Joe Sullivan and Pat Flynn, traditional sophomores, have carried both rivalries and friendships to Bowling Green.

“It reminds you a little bit about home,” said Max Auden. “We don’t go home too often, so just having your buddies here is just a way to know that you’re not too far away from home.”

It is this hometown bond that is special between them. However, their unique situation has led to a plethora of nickname ideas. One has seemingly stuck: The Naperville Mafia.

This sense of humor and joke-filled atmosphere is one they welcome amongst each other.

Bringing with them their high school rivalries, the four of them still keep tabs on their high school soccer teams.

When one school wins over another, they make it a point of emphasis to let the other player know that his team lost.

“So everyone just beats [Danny] Shea’s team,” said Joe Sullivan. “And North beat Central just a couple weeks ago in the playoffs.”

Auden and Sullivan both went to Naperville North, while Flynn attended Naperville Central.

However, the Naperville natives don’t seclude themselves from the rest of the team. Instead, they share a similar bond with them.

“We’re all best friends,” Sullivan said. “Our team hangs out together a lot, so it’s just nice being at Bowling Green because you feel like you’re at home already.”

But this doesn’t stop them from picking on their teammates.

“We kind of gang up on the rest of the team since we’re all from Naperville, because we think we’re better than the rest of them,” Auden said.

Shea agrees saying, “Well, we are better than them.”

This ornery and hardheaded mindset is one that has helped keep not only the soccer team together and focused, but the four Naperville natives so close despite being so far away from home.

Thus, with jokes and rivalries aside, the Naperville quartet remains close friends and have the opportunity to experience some of the best years of their life together both on and off the field.

“Some of the things that you enjoy about playing soccer, the friendships and stuff that you build, it’s nice and I enjoy it,” said Flynn. “You’ve grown up with these people, so you just understand each other.”

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