Norman Steigelman was devastated when his beloved North Catholic High School was closed in June 2010 due to budgetary woes.
But from his misfortune arose a new opportunity.
Steigelman, known to most as “Boomer,” transferred to Roman Catholic High School, and for the past two seasons has teamed up with the Cahillites varsity soccer squad.
“It was definitely tough at first,” said Steigelman, a Fishtown native. “I had to meet a lot of new players from different neighborhoods, but going to Roman was good. I met a lot of new friends.
“We’ve been doing good things on the soccer field,” he added. “We beat better teams. We are all more of a family this year, which helps a lot.”
Roman Catholic has gone 8-6-3 overall this season. All eight recorded wins were shutouts.
The Cahillites ousted Conwell-Egan, 1-0, in the Catholic League quarterfinals on Oct. 25, earning the right to face powerhouse Father Judge in the semifinals.
The game was originally slated for Saturday afternoon, but the heavy rains and snow postponed the outing twice. It was eventually played on Halloween night. Unfortunately for the Cahillites, that is where their postseason run concluded. Father Judge won, 3-0.
Although their hopes of championship glory were dashed early, according to Steigelman, the Cahillites achieved massive improvements this season.
“Last year, when we first came to Roman, we weren’t really together,” he explained. “We were going at each other. We all wanted to take each other’s positions.
“Now this year, we’re all one school, one team,” he added. “Both of our coaches were amazing this year. We did a lot of training and workouts together. We became more of a team. Everyone on our team is equal.”
In addition to obtaining new student athletes, longtime North Catholic coach Jerry Brindisi also migrated to Roman’s soccer field, bringing with him four Catholic League championships and one city title during his time with the Falcons.
“I’m really enjoying this. The kids are great,” said Brindisi. “They come to work everyday.
“Boomer has been a great leader. He’s a survivor,” added Brindisi. “He’s a fantastic kid and the heart and soul of this team.”
Steigelman worked as a team captain for this year’s varsity squad alongside fellow seniors Mark Casasanto and Alex Hartzag. But the trio’s history spans far beyond Roman Catholic. Long before they were teammates, they were rivals. Steigelman and Hartzag played for the Fishtown AC, while Casasanto competed for the South Philadelphia Strikers.
“We know each other from the neighborhood,” said Steigelman. “Mark is one of the best captains I’ve ever played with and Alex, I’ve played soccer with him my whole life.”
Although Steigelman only spent two years with the Roman Catholic squad, he’s been competing on the soccer field for more than a decade. He teamed up with various travel squads throughout Fishtown and plans to continue his soccer career at the collegiate level next year.
“I have a couple schools that I’m thinking about,” said Steigelman, who turned 18 on Sunday. “I want to continue to play soccer and study business management.
“I like working and making money,” said Steigelman, adding that he’s worked at the Memphis Market in Fishtown for the past six years. “My boss has taught me a lot of things. I’d like to learn more about business.”
Steigelman has earned decent grades in the classroom and said his transition academically from North to Roman was a relatively easy one.
“At Roman, you have more work. It’s a little bit harder,” he said. “I’m an organized kid, so I get all my work done. I like all my classes and the teachers are great.
“Roman was a good choice for me,” he continued. “We have a great soccer team when we all play together. It’s fun because we’re all neighborhood kids who love to compete.” ••
Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org