Senior captains lead the way for LAHS boy's soccer

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By Phil Scherer

Being a captain for a team is no easy task, especially in high school sports. It adds another layer of responsibility on top of an already hectic schedule that includes excelling in the classroom and on the playing field. 

Instead of just worrying about their own performance, captains are the players who are relied upon to be the leaders on the field and make sure everyone is doing what is necessary to succeed.

Having strong leadership is often the difference between an excellent team and an average team, and the impact of that leadership never appears on the box score or in the headlines.

Perhaps no team at Los Alamos High School has benefitted more this year from strong leadership than the boy’s soccer team, which has three captains.

The three players, Ben Rees, Andreas Runde and Tristan Semelsberger, have proven to be a great trio on the field, leading the team to a 10-4 record in their non-district schedule, but they could not be more different off the field.

All three of them look at the game of soccer in a different way, and find enjoyment in different aspects of their experience.

Put simply, Semelsberger is the ultimate soccer fanatic.

It consumes nearly every aspect of his life, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Honestly, I’d say that 80 or 90 percent of my thoughts revolve around soccer,” Semelsberger said.

He began playing soccer around the age of 4, and hasn’t stopped since.

He said that he is at his happiest playing the game, whether it’s in practice, in a competitive setting or on the street with his friends.

When he’s not playing soccer, he is thinking about soccer, watching soccer or playing soccer video games.

Head coach Ron Blue described Semelsberger as a “soccer junkie.”

“The guy just loves the game,” Blue said.

He said that Semelsberger possesses a skill set that is impressive to watch, and that he does things on the field that are unbelievable.

“He is the one guy on the field who is dangerous every time he gets the ball,” Blue said.

This season, Semelsberger has scored 12 goals and added eight assists, constantly pushing his team toward victory, just like his favorite soccer players Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who he models his game after.

Blue added that although soccer is his biggest passion, Semelsberger is incredibly intelligent and has proven to be a great leader.

“He will do everything that you ask, and he will do it with great energy,” Blue said. “He has been a joy.”

Unlike Semelsberger, Runde views the game as an escape from the outside world. When he is on the field, nothing else matters.

“It’s a way to just let loose and be myself, and it’s where I can be who I really am,” Runde said.

He had a soccer ball on his foot before he could even walk.

His father played semi-professional soccer in Germany, and instilled a passion for the game into his son at a very early age that never went away.

He takes the game very seriously, something Blue noticed the first time he met him.

“Andreas has got a drive, and he is very competitive,” Blue said. “He wants to win at everything.”

Runde said that he learns a lot about the game by watching it.

He doesn’t care which teams are playing. He will watch any game, just for the love of the sport and the opportunity to analyze every movement.

“I like to learn from watching those guys,” Runde said. “I think watching the game is where every player can learn a lot.”

Blue applauded Runde’s skills on the field, saying that he is one of the few players he has seen that can put the ball wherever he wants every time it is on his foot.

“If we could finish plays as often as he sets them up for us, it would be amazing,” Blue said.

Runde has tallied a team-high eight assists so far this year.

Blue also said that Runde has stepped up from a leadership standpoint this year, and that he has embraced a lot of the younger players and always tries to help them improve.

For Rees, the enjoyment of soccer comes from being around his teammates every day and coming together for a common mission of winning.

“I think being out here with 11 to 20 great people is what I like most about it,” Rees said. “I like that it’s essentially running with a purpose. There is always a goal in mind and you are working with other people. That’s what I like.”

Unlike his co-captains, Rees does not enjoy watching soccer, or any other sport for that matter.

“I get bored out of my mind,” Rees said. “Playing it is a lot more interesting.”

The game also didn’t come quite as naturally to Rees as it did for the other two.

He began playing early in elementary school, but didn’t start playing competitively until fourth grade.

He has played all over the field throughout his soccer career, but has found a home on the defensive end this year.

With their starting goalkeeper out for the season, and their backup dealing with a finger injury, Rees and his fellow defenders have done an outstanding job of keeping the ball away from their goal, which has contributed to the team’s success.

Blue feels like Rees is one of the hardest workers he has ever met, and that the way he plays is highly impressive.

“He is not a big guy, but he plays like he is huge,” Blue said.

Blue also feels like his work with his teammates off the field is even more impressive than his work on the field.

“We talk all the time about captains being inclusive, as opposed to exclusive with the other players, and Ben is as inclusive as a person as there is,” Blue said. “I would venture to guess that he is friends with just about everyone on campus. He is just a super likable guy.”

On top of having a winning personality, he is highly intelligent.

Both Rees and Runde hope to become doctors some day, though neither has a specialty picked out just yet.

Blue complimented the intelligence of all three of his captains, and believes they will all be great at whatever they choose to do, whether it involves the sport they have all bonded over or not.

He said, “They will all be highly successful, both on the soccer field and in life.”