The year was 1988. That spring, two sets of young parents, Kevin and Barbara Dermody, and Dominick and Luciana Lavacca, bring their only sons to the children's first practice that year of the Port Washington Soccer Club. No one thought then that this would spawn a friendship of families and star athletes that would follow both boys through their senior year of NCAA collegiate competition.
Back then, Brian Dermody and Mario Lavacca were both talented young 7-year-old boys who found their niche in the sport pretty much from that start. In their pre-teen years, they each progressed and played together in the Port youth soccer program on travel teams and in various all-star teams nationally. They both were named to the Long Island select soccer team for four years running. Notably, in 1999, their Under-17 team (HOTA Soccer Club) won the "Capital Cup" tournament, which features teams from around the country. This was the first Long Island team to win this tournament in many years. Mario scored three goals in the tournament including the winner in the semifinals.
This local success culminated at the high school varsity level playing for Schreiber, where their varsity teams were Nassau County finalists for two out of the three years they were on the team. Brian was even named a team captain in his senior year, as well as All-County. He was also selected to play in the Long Island Exceptional Senior Game.
The young men seemingly went their separate ways upon graduation from Schreiber, although they and their parents remained close. Brian and Mario each had aspirations to continue their competitive playing careers at the collegiate level. As coincidence, luck, or fate would have it, both ended up playing key roles on their NCAA varsity soccer teams - - Mario at the State University (NY) College at New Paltz, and Brian at the State University (NY) College at Cortland. Both schools had very solid, competitive small college (NCAA Division III) soccer programs and were rivals in the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC). As both players moved toward completing their collegiate careers, Cortland played New Paltz each year, and Brian's team bested Mario's for three out of those four years.
The team triumphs complemented the individual honors bestowed upon both friends. Mario was named SUNYAC Player of the Year for the 2003 season, was 1st Team All-Conference, second in the league in goals with 14 (which also led the New Paltz team), as well as MVP of his team. It was the second All-Conference honor for him as he earned a spot on the 2nd Team in 2002. The team captain, Mario was also named to the 2nd Team All-Northeast Region (Division III) squad covering colleges stretching from Maine to Delaware.
These achievements practically mirror those attained by Brian. Over his last two years of eligibility at Cortland, he established an ironman reputation, playing every minute of every game, except for two blowout wins. While at Cortland, his team won the SUNYAC title three years running, and qualified for the NCAA tournament for those seasons as well. Also a team captain as a senior, Brian led Cortland to a record of 16 wins, five losses, and two ties, establishing a school mark for victories.
Individually, Brian was also named as MVP of the Cortland team, MVP of the Salisbury State (MD) Tournament, won 1st Team All-Conference SUNYAC honors, 1st Team All-Tournament recognition at the SUNYAC Championships, and 2nd Team All-Northeast Region (Division III) as well. It is no surprise that he is also a finalist for Cortland's male athlete of the year.
And, ironically, both young men share career interests, with each majoring in Communications at their respective schools. Reflecting on their friendship and playing days, Brian noted, "It's been a great run, from youth soccer through high school and in college. I know I will always appreciate how close soccer has brought Mario and me, not to mention our families, too."
Mario could not be more supportive. He states, "I agree. With soccer, and as a student athlete, I feel very lucky to have developed my skills at every level I have played, and my friendship with Brian makes these achievements that much more special."