Sylvis A Standout For Cardinal Soccer

Nov. 1, 2000

Sport: Men's Soccer
Year: Senior
Position: Midfielder
Height: 5-8
Weight: 150
Hometown: Redmond, WA
High School: Eastlake
Major: Computer Science

Every successful team needs its share of 'team players' - those that sacrifice all they have for the good of the entire squad. Any soccer team that is 14-1-1 and holds the first No. 1 ranking in school history is full of such players, however, perhaps one stands out more than others. One of Stanford's 'Super Subs' - a group of players who serve as a true spark off the bench - senior midfielder Sean Sylvis is a key component to what is fast becoming one of the best Cardinal men's soccer teams in school history.

Sylvis, from Redmond, Wash., has been through a lot in his career on The Farm. As a sophomore on the 1998 National Finalist squad, he saw action in 13 of the team's first 15 matches before suffering a season-ending broken leg in a game at Cal Poly on October 25. A fiery competitor, Sylvis went through intense rehabilitation and played in 17 of 19 matches as a junior in 1999. However, last season was somewhat of a struggle, as the midfielder notched only eight shots on goal. This year, on the other hand, has seen the player whom head coach Bobby Clark calls 'an exciting player with a great ability to beat defenders,' truly come into his own.

Sylvis has played in all 16 matches of his senior campaign, recording career highs in shots (16), goals (4), assists (2) and points (10). A tremendous clutch player, his three game-winning goals are tied with Luke Rust for the team lead. After a two-game stretch in which he scored game-winners in Stanford road wins at Oregon State and then-No. 4 Washington, Sylvis was named to the Soccer America Team of the Week and earned the Cardinal's inaugural Pac-10 Player of the Week honor.

For Sylvis, however, the goal remains team-oriented.

'I think it would be absolutely amazing to end my senior season as the first-ever Pac-10 Champion,' he says.

For Stanford, who enters this weekend with a half-game lead over Washington in the conference race, confidence abounds.

'We have so much belief in this team,' Sylvis comments. 'Ever since I got here, under Coach Clark, we have always believed that this program would be one of the best in the nation. Now, after four years, we've learned and grown, and now this is our time.'

As one who has been part of a College Cup squad before (in 1998, when Stanford advanced to the National Championship match), Sylvis feels that the 2000 Cardinal is even more prepared for postseason challenges than its 1998 brethren.

'I think we are finally ready to take the next step,' says Sylvis. 'Two years ago, we maybe didn't quite believe we should have been there. Now, with the players that we have and the experience, I think we're ready to win and go places.'

In order for Stanford to reach postseason heights, it will need to continue playing the outstanding defense it has played all season. The Cardinal boasts the nation's stingiest defense with a 0.24 goals against average, has allowed only four goals in 1470:53 minutes, and has yet to give up goals in consecutive games. As a midfielder and the first line of defense, Sylvis has been a large factor in Stanford's 13 shutouts thus far in 2000.

'We pride ourselves on our defense first,' Sylvis says. 'That is one of the first things that Coach instilled in us - our work ethic, and not letting the other team have an easy time in the field. The first thing I worked on when I came in is that defense comes first, and you build the offense off that. When you come in as a freshman, you learn the defensive scheme, then as the years go on and you get more games, you get to the point where you pretty much know exactly what needs to be done - no matter where the ball is on the field.'

However, knowledge is only successful if combined with effort and, as anyone who has seen a Bobby Clark team knows, 100% is the only level accepted.

'Before every game,' Sylvis says, 'we talk about outworking the opponent, not giving them any easy chances.'

Stanford Athletics Highlights:
Has played in all 16 matches thus far in 2000 ... Has established career highs in shots (16), goals (4), assists (2) and points (10) ... A key component of a defensive unit that leads the nation with a 0.24 GAA ... Stanford's inaugural Pac-10 Player of the Week and a member of the Soccer America Teamof the Week for October 17-23 ... Tied for the team lead with three game-winning goals, tallying game-winners in Stanford's road wins at Oregon State and then-No. 4 Washington.

Such intensity leads to a swarming defense that, according to Sylvis, 'smothers the opponents and does not allow them to play. Then, maybe after a half, or 60 minutes, they will crumble under our defensive pressure - that is a big key to our success, that we outwork our opponents. The mentality of the team - forwards or defenders - is that no one is going to play through us and that allowing a goal is offensive.'

Sylvis knows that the same attention to detail that typifies the Cardinal defense is one of the lessons he will take away from Stanford soccer - the attention to the 'wee things'.'Coach Clark has taught us not only soccer, but life lessons,' Sylvis says. He makes sure we pay attention to the 'wee things' - and that goes a long way towards us handling ourselves in the respectful manner of the Stanford soccer player.'

Respect is what everyone associated with Stanford soccer has for Sean Sylvis - a young man who has battled his way back from a broken leg to become an integral part of one of the nation's best teams. That is not a 'wee thing', but a tremendous accomplishment, as would be a return trip by the Cardinal to the Men's College Cup in Charlotte, N.C., next month.

'That,' says Sylvis about the College Cup, 'would be unbelievable.'

by Matt Hodson

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