By MICHELLE SPEAKER
Senior forward Mike Ciluffo remembers a poster above the door of his high school soccer coach’s office. The poster read: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Ciluffo still sees and hears this quote today. This constantly reminded the team to work to their best ability.
“It is something I always try to incorporate in my game because I know I may not be the most skilled player on the field, but I will be one of the hardest working,” Ciluffo said.
Ciluffo is a Tampa native who has been working with coach Moe Loregnard, the men’s soccer assistant coach. “I have been coming to camps here since the age of ten, staying overnight and just watching the university grow, along with the men’s team,” Ciluffo said. The coaches have been able to watch Ciluffo grow not only in the last four years, but from the time he was 10 years old.
Ciluffo recalls one of the first things that head coach Adrian Bush and assistant coach Loregnard said to him when he first started as a freshman. “‘These are going to be the guys that will be at your wedding,’ I definitely still believe that,” Ciluffo said. “Some of these guys are some of my best friends and I cherish that.”
Bush saw an adjustment period for Ciluffo not only on the field, but the college life as well. “I think he has grown and matured in the last four years tremendously; it shows on the field how he has become an ultimate team guy with his willingness to do whatever it is for the team,” Bush said. “He is a guy that the younger players look up to as a senior right now.”
This season, Ciluffo scored his first goal of his college career. “I had been waiting for that chance for a while and I’m extremely appreciative of my coaches and teammates for giving me the opportunity, considering it came off a penalty kick that Bay Downing earned,” Ciluffo said. “I know he wanted to take it, but it meant a lot he that was willing to let me take it so I could get my first goal.”
In the words of coach Bush, “the team just erupted” when that happened. On the sideline after the game came to a close, the coaches and teammates showed nothing but love and cracked a few jokes. “It’s memories like those and teammates like mine that truly make you cherish the game for all it’s worth,” Ciluffo said.
Ciluffo believes that his decision-making has improved throughout the years. “It is a lot quicker coming from high school to college, the pace of the game is more rapid and you have to think quicker,” Ciluffo said.
Ciluffo’s stats do not show what a value of a player he is to the team. “He is a guy that could care less about a goal or an assist, he cares about winning and he cares about the team winning,” Bush said.
When Ciluffo is committed he is as good as anyone on the field. “Continue to do what he’s doing now.” Coach Bush would give this advice to Ciluffo moving forward. “He is a guy that has been very helpful; he is encouraging, he is hardworking,” Bush said. “He cares, he competes, and he learned to channel his emotions a little bit, but he is a guy who is going to be highly successful in the business world because he gets it, he gets what a team player is all about.”
Michelle Speaker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org