ALTON — Marquette Catholic's Brandon Sanfilippo says he's learned everything he knows about the game of soccer from his dad, Jeremy Sanfilippo.
That even goes for his collegiate choice.
On Wednesday, the Marquette senior goalie decided to play for St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa — his father's alma mater.
“The first thing, he asked me because it's my alma mater,” Jeremy said of Brandon's college search. “He asked me about it because he was considering other schools: Drury, U of I Springfield, DePaul and McKendree. He came to me and asked, 'What about St. Ambrose?' I made a phone call to the coach and it just so happened the goaltender was a junior and next year will be a senior, so Brandon will have a year to get ready, or the coach already told him he has the opportunity to come in and start as a freshman.”
Jeremy added, “It's fantastic for me. I didn't push him toward it, he came to me and I thought it was really cool that he wanted to do that. I'm really proud of him that he chose St. Ambrose over the other colleges.”
Brandon liked the atmosphere and camaraderie at St. Ambrose. A NAIA program, the Fighting Bees reminded him of his time with the Explorers.
“This is the most exciting time of my life because I've been working my entire life just to get here,” Brandon said. “The coach (Jon Mannall) seemed really interested and it was just a really good atmosphere. The campus was small, very similar to Marquette and it was someplace I could see myself.”
Brandon will take loads of talent to St. Ambrose. The athletic and versatile keeper posted 12 shutouts during his senior campaign, including a pair of 1-0 wins in two regional contests in Jacksonville. He also helped lead the Explorers (14-7-3) past Columbia 2-1 in the 2A Columbia Sectional semifinals, avenging an earlier 6-1 loss to the Eagles during the regular season. Columbia was also the defending Class 1A state champions.
“Senior year, I knew it was my last year and I knew I wanted to go out doing the best that I could, so playoff time I knew I had to step up and do what I could do,” Brandon said. “We ended up winning regionals and knocking off Columbia and that was just a big thing for us.”
Brandon thinks he learned a lot about being a goalie during his tenure at Marquette. Maybe the most important lessons were to remain focused mentally and stay prepared at all times.
“I learned not to get down on myself (if a goal went in) because there is always more game left and there is always time for a comeback,” Brandon said. “It's all mental really, because once you get down on yourself you're just going to start making mistakes.”
His mental preparedness comes from years of coaching from Jeremy. Brandon attributes everything he knows about soccer to his father and coach.
“I've played for him my entire life,” Brandon said. “It's going to be different without him next year. I've learned everything from him actually.”
And Jeremy said there was no preferential treatment for Brandon just because he was his son, nor did Brandon consider himself privileged with dad as his coach.
“He's worked hard for this every since he started playing soccer,” Jeremy said. “He's gone to the training sessions to get to where he is as a goalkeeper and in his four years here he's helped the program. In high school it's tough to find a goalkeeper that can be consistent and he's been a consistent goalie for us. This year he took us pretty far into the playoffs in 2A, so it was a big thing with his leadership skills.
“His freshman year he had Zach Horn, who was a leader for us, and he didn't have to come in and play right off the bat. He had a year to grow and get to watch what Zach was going through. He had a growth spurt his sophomore year and he went out there and did everything everybody else did. Being the coach's kid he wasn't trying to get away with anything. He went out and worked just as hard as the rest of the guys.”
And he'll continue to work hard at the next level. Getting stronger mentally and physically will be keys to his evolution into a solid collegiate goalkeeper.
“The biggest thing he'll need to work on is just keeping a sound mind when he gets into the games,” Jeremy said. “The games are going to be a lot tighter, because it's a higher level of soccer. He's going to be playing against some of the top schools. Being at a NAIA school, you can play against D-I schools, you can play against D-II schools and they play a lot of Chicago schools and you know there is a lot of good talent in Chicago. Everybody at this level is not just OK, but a good soccer player, so you're dealing with a lot of stress.”
The Fighting Bees were 9-10-1 in 2015, reaching the semifinals of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) tournament before bowing.
Brandon is happy to be joining the St. Ambrose program and following in his dad's footsteps, but he'll definitely miss his time at Marquette.
“I'll miss how close I am with everybody,” Brandon said. “I'll just miss my friends.”
Brandon is undecided what he will major in at college, but he has a simple goal of what he wants to do on the soccer field.
“Just get better than I am now,” he said.