Viterbo Men's Soccer Team a Global Band of Brothers

Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Viterbo soccer circle
Nine of 11 starters on Viterbo University men’s soccer team are international students. The team is pictured here in a pregame ritual before the Oct. 26 game against Maranatha Baptist University, with team chaplain Chad Gilbeck in the hat at left and head coach Luke Dunn in the blue shirt at right.

Viterbo University’s undefeated men’s soccer team has a distinct family feel this year. It’s like they are all brothers from another country.

This season, the V-Hawks roster has 18 international students from 12 countries, plus three players who have overseas roots in three different countries but now make their homes in the United States and have dual citizenship.

With its small classes and a longstanding Franciscan core value of hospitality, the family feeling is institutionally integral at Viterbo. But the men’s soccer team members have a bond that seems as tight as the one demonstrated on “The Waltons,” a 1970s TV show that always ended with the family members calling out to the others by name and wishing them good night.

Viterbo men's soccer international Roster

With the soccer team, though, the good-night ritual would sound very different: “Good night, Alessandro. Good night, Alfie. Good night, Opeyemi. Good night, Polyzois.”

Part of this sense of family comes from third-year head coach Luke Dunn, who takes on the role of team father, despite not being that much older than some of the players. A big part of it also comes from Chad Gilbeck, completing his 13th season as team chaplain. If Dunn is the dad, Gilbeck is the cool uncle.

“Since I came here, Chad was one of those who were always available for me, for anything,” said team captain Matteo Galeotti of Parma, Italy, a 23-year-old sports management junior. “He’s a good presence for the team, and he’s an easy person to relate with.”

Those sentiments were confirmed by Galeotti’s roommate, Harvinder “Vinney” Koner, a second-year student in the Master of Business Administration degree program from Wolverhampton, England.

“I think he really puts the team first,” said Koner, one of five players from England. “He’s what Viterbo is all about. He shows Viterbo in a very good light.”

Gilbeck’s helpfulness is a great trait for the job he does at Viterbo. He’s the longtime director of the help desk in the instructional and information technology department.

Both Galeotti and Koner have work-study jobs in Gilbeck’s department. So do four other soccer team members, including Allessandro Lopergolo of Italy, Ernesto Ascenzo of Peru, Alfie Gyurkovits of England, and Dakota Hatzenbeller, a first-year student from Milwaukee who has marveled at the team’s family dynamic.

“It’s been amazing to see everyone come together, both on and off the field,” Hatzenbeller said.

Viterbo has been dominant this season, racking up a 16-0-1 and outscoring opponents 83-7. The international nature of the team and the tight bond that has created is a big reason for the success, Koner said.

“We’re all in the same boat, and I think you can tell that on the pitch, too,” Koner said. “We’re a much better footballing side because of it.”

The internationality of Viterbo’s soccer roster has gone up and down over the years, but there have usually been at least some. Because of their citizenship status, international students can’t hold off-campus jobs. Many departments at Viterbo can’t offer federally subsidized work study jobs to international students, but Gilbeck has made a point of offering part-time work to students from abroad.

Before taking over as team chaplain, Gilbeck said he knew nothing about soccer. Over the years, though, a lot of Gilbeck’s work-study jobs went to international soccer players. That connection led to him taking over as team chaplain upon the death of the Rev. Tom O’Neill, Viterbo’s vice president of mission and ministry, known to all as Father Tom.

O’Neill, who started the team chaplain program with baseball, basketball and soccer, had an office down the hall from Gilbeck and they’d become close friends. When O’Neill died just as the 2009 soccer season was starting, Gilbeck accepted the offer to take over as soccer chaplain, largely out of love for his friend and a desire to carry on his good work.

Every year as the soccer team members come to campus, Gilbeck sends them an email reminding them of O’Neill’s legacy and explaining his role, which covers a lot of territory. Players can turn to him, he tells them, for academic advice, help with computer problems (of course), work-study hours, or even a quick snack and a joke.

Over the years he’s helped team members move, given them rides, offered them his surplus clothing, furniture, and household items, and helped them work out relationship issues and other emotional trauma. “A big part of my role is just being there as someone who will listen without judging,” he said.

A couple weeks ago, coach Dunn’s mother drove from Indiana to cook a spaghetti dinner for the whole team, partly as a celebration of breaking the school record for consecutive wins with their 12th victory.

“After dinner I stood up and told them how proud the university is of the team, how proud I personally am of them this season,” Gilbeck said. “This is probably the most special team I’ve seen in all the time I’ve been chaplain, not just for the wins, but the true team spirit, just the genuine feeling of a family.”

After Gilbeck’s post-dinner talk, Dunn served up the sweetest dessert, revealing the V-Hawks had qualified for the Association of Independent Institutions regional championship tournament in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

The men’s soccer team will be in good company in Georgia. The Viterbo women’s soccer team also plays in the AII regional tournament, which takes place Nov. 12-13 at Georgia Gwinnett College. The women play their first-round game at 2 p.m. EST Friday, with the men playing their first-round game at 5 p.m. EST. If they win, they play in the championship games on Saturday. Video of the games will be livestreamed on the Gwinnett website.

International V-Hawks.jpg
International players include Jacob Battista (Australia); Florian Albrecht (Austria); Alfie Gyurkovits, Harvinder “Vinney” Koner, Harry Hauserman, Nathaniel Lancaster-Robinson, Aidan Radford (England); Abdul Samet “Sammie” Ankaoglu (Germany); Matteo Galeotti, Alessandro Lopergolo (Italy); Jorden Verdonk (Netherlands); Opeyemi Abioye (Nigeria); Ernesto Ascenzo (Peru); Miguel Pereira da Silva (Portugal); Callum Dunn, Callum Smith (Scotland); Qian Grosvenor (Trinidad); and Diego Idrobo (Venezuela).
Viterbo men's soccer


Viterbo men's soccer


Viterbo men's soccer


Viterbo men's soccer


Viterbo men's soccer


Viterbo men's soccer


Viterbo men's soccer


Viterbo men's soccer


Viterbo men's soccer


Viterbo men's soccer


Viterbo men's soccer


Viterbo men's soccer