One Final Kickoff

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Issue 16, Volume 112

By Shafiul Haque 

Name: Matt Melucci

Grade: Senior

Height: 6’ 1”

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Brown

Date of Birth: 02/12/2004

Position: Right back

1. When did you start playing soccer? How long have you been on the Peglegs, the Stuyvesant varsity soccer team?

I started playing soccer when I was three years old, then joined local rec leagues until I reached middle school and played travel soccer through freshman year. I’ve been on the Peglegs since late August before my freshman year, so four years.

2. What inspired you to join the soccer team at Stuyvesant?

When I was in middle school, I used to play on different teams (soccer, baseball, basketball, and volleyball), and I had planned to stay on just one sports team by sophomore year. I had played on the soccer team at East Side Middle School (sixth grade) and Hunter College High School (seventh to eighth grade), and I couldn’t envision myself not playing soccer in high school. When I went to the Stuy Open House as an incoming freshman, I had the chance to talk to some members of the soccer team, and I felt that it was a welcoming community. The choice to stick to it for my whole journey at Stuy just came naturally.

3. What position do you play, and how has your skill with the game evolved over time?

I started out playing right wing for the Stuyvesant team, and I think my skill has evolved primarily in physicality and ability to adapt to new positions. During my senior year, our first season after the COVID-19 pandemic, I switched to right back to help solidify the back line for our team.

4. Do you have a moment that you have been most proud about with the ​​Peglegs?

I was most proud of the Peglegs in our first playoff round victory against Francis Lewis this past season. We were down 2-1 to Francis Lewis by the end of the first half, and we weren’t getting many chances off. In the tense halftime huddle, my co-captains and I hyped up our team to come out on top, and in the second half, we put up another two goals to make it to the next round of the playoffs. More generally, I was proud of how everyone kept conditioning, training, and staying connected as a team even virtually, when we didn’t have a season in 2020.

5. What is your strategy for constantly improving yourself (specific workouts, exercises, mentality, etc.)?

I concentrated mainly on improving physicality and speed, two crucial skills for soccer. Right now, I go to the gym three times a week and continue to stay in shape by playing pickup games, biking, and rowing. Regarding my mentality in soccer, as for everything else, it boils down to setting goals, building confidence, focusing on mindfulness, and being open-minded. I think it’s important to continuously reflect and be open to change. Mistakes are learning opportunities and foster improvement.

6. What challenges did you face this season, and how have you persevered through them?

The main challenge I faced this year was adjusting from right wing to right back in the beginning of the season because we needed a stronger back line. I kept a team mentality to play the position that was best for the team, rather than the one I liked most. The open dialogue with Coach Miller and members of the team helped me adapt to the new position as we built a solid back line.

7. How has being captain changed your outlook on the game, and how have you worked with the other captains?

We had a big team this year, so it was great to work with my co-captains, Ben Hamel and Leo Rahn, to keep everyone focused and playing hard in practices and games. As captains, we focused less on ourselves and more on maintaining the team’s morale, leading practice through our conditioning and drills, encouraging our teammates, and ensuring that everyone was improving and staying focused. Being a captain definitely provided me with a new perspective of responsibility as a leader of a team.

8. Do you have any plans to continue the sport in the future or at college?

Absolutely. I’ll certainly be playing soccer in college to some extent, and I hope to continue staying involved with the sport as I get older, whether it be in a local recreational league or coaching kids later on.

9. How have you balanced soccer with schoolwork and other activities that you’re involved in?

Soccer actually fit in pretty nicely with my schoolwork and other activities. Rather than negatively impacting my academic performance and time management, the daily hours practicing and playing after school actually pushed me to do schoolwork faster and not procrastinate. When you have less time, you get more productive. Playing on a sports team is relaxing, which translates to better wellbeing and a positive attitude with other work.

10. What is your jersey number? What made you decide that number?

I started off with 26 as a freshman, when there weren’t many numbers available for the younger guys. In our senior season, I switched to seven because it’s my lucky number.

11. How do you think the Stuyvesant soccer team has changed you as an athlete and as a person?

As an athlete, it’s been a formative experience being on a team for the entirety of high school. I’ve seen how I can best contribute to a team and have certainly developed my skills as a soccer player as my hustle, confidence, and physicality have improved. As a person, I’ve learned what a true, tight-knit community is like, and the team helped me become extremely collaborative and team-focused. From the upperclassmen on the team, whom I met as an incoming freshman even before starting school, to the underclassmen who promise great seasons ahead for the Peglegs, I feel grateful for all the people I met through the team and the great memories.

Funniest Teammate? Definitely class clown Ben Hamel

Favorite Soccer Team? Paris Saint-Germain

Favorite Soccer Player? Erling Haaland

Favorite Stuyvesant Teacher? A tie between Mr. Honner and Mr. Polazzo

Hobbies: Playing the piano, photography, biking

Motto to Live By: Fortuna audaces iuvat (Fortune favors the brave)

Fun Fact: I had a superstition of playing “Race My Mind” by Drake right before every soccer game this season.