When you are in a crisis, you find out who your true friends are.
Lakeland boys soccer coach Tim Hourahan and his squad found out that they have plenty of friends in the Section 1 soccer community, not that they didn’t know it already.
Back on Oct. 16, the Hornets’ three junior captains, Matias Prando, Nick Foci and Jordan Fein, were in a car accident around 8 p.m. that evening and immediately, they received support from all over the section.
“The response of the Section 1 soccer community, it was honestly overwhelming,” Hourahan said. “A few of the high-school coaches that I am really tight with made a trip to the hospital to be with the guys the night of the accident, a few others showed up to our game at 11 a.m. to speak to our players and show support. Many others, including some from the referee association reached out to send their wishes and it was great to know that there was so much support for these three young men.”
Support they appreciated.
“It meant a lot to us, we really appreciated it,” Prando said. “It showed how tightly knit the Section 1 community is and gave us a lot of support throughout a difficult time.”
The 11 a.m. game Hourahan was referring to was the following day, Oct. 17, when his team hosted and defeated Our Lady of Lourdes 3-0.
Hourahan called it one of the “most surreal games” he had coached in his 11 years at Lakeland.
“There were no players talking before the game in the locker room and the warm up without our captains was as quiet as I have ever seen,” Hourahan said. “Nobody knew how to act and to be honest the feelings were still very raw. With the game happening only 15 hours after the accident and two of our captains remaining in the hospital (one in the ICU) none of us really had any answers at that time on their status. Being in the ICU wing of a hospital is scary enough.”
Hourahan said his original decision was to forfeit the game since he didn’t think there was any way that he or his players would be prepared to play Lourdes under the circumstances and with the last league game scheduled for two days later, there was no room in the calendar for making the game up.
“Well one of our captains (Fein) happened to get wind of this in the recovery room and he told his mom to tell me ‘no way is coach going to forfeit, go play and go win,’” Hourahan said.
On Oct. 23, the three captains were back on the sideline supporting their teammates in a Section 1 Class A opening-round 2-0 victory against visiting Nyack.
“I feel that not only was it important for our three captains to be on the sideline for our players, but now I think it was just as important for our captains,” Hourahan said. “The understanding for those three that the healing process begins right away and that they need to start their long track back to recovery and what better way to do it then to be with their teammates.”
Three days later, in a 1-0 overtime loss to visiting Eastchester in the quarterfinals, Prando pulled a “Willis Reed” and was back in the lineup.
“The kid showed some of the greatest character we have had here at Lakeland,” Hourahan said. “He not only bumped up his appointment to have his staples removed from his head by a few days but he also played 75 of the 90 minutes in a 0-0 game for his team with a swollen knee. He provided us an emotional lift and he just gutted it out for us at about 50 percent health.”
Prando admitted he wasn’t really in the best physical condition.
“I was still a little banged up, I just wanted to get back on the field with my teammates and help them,” Prando said. “It meant a lot to me because right after it happened the next few days I was always worried about when I could get back to play again because sectionals were coming up and it meant a lot not only to me but to my teammates.”