Peel back the pages of a dusty, old dictionary and scour them for ‘dog.’
If you’re meticulous in your search, you will discover that ‘dog’ is defined as: “a domesticated carnivorous mammal that typically has a long snout, an acute sense of smell, and a barking, howling, or whining voice. It is widely kept as a pet or for work or field sports.”
However, there is another definition of ‘dog’ that more accurately describes senior Giancarlo Santoro.
It goes like this: “he is sure to cause trouble and be loud but at the end of the day, people like who he is.”
Santoro has been stirring up trouble recently, but it’s the good kind of trouble — if there is such a thing.
While attending a communication class in one of the many ancient rooms in Ingram Hall, Santoro was glued to his seat.
He wasn’t fastened to his chair because of the professor’s riveting teachings, but because of what he saw greeting him in his email inbox.
There, in front of Santoro, was an email from Ron Smith.
Smith’s name might not ring any alarms for popularity or uniqueness, but Smith had a simple message for Santoro: he had been selected to join the USA Division 3 All-Star Soccer Team.
Santoro is among 16 players to be selected nationwide for this prestigious squad, which will travel down to the soccer-crazed country of Brazil. This year, Brazil has the privilege of hosting the World Cup, an international spectacle.
The USA Division 3 All-Star Soccer Team’s tour will run from May 27 through June 5. The squad’s tour will commence in Orlando, Fla.
There, the team will practice for two days before flying down to Sao Paulo, Brazil for multiple games in the City of Jundiai and the state of Sao Paulo May 29, 30 and 31. The team will end its tour in Rio de Janeiro for one more competition June 3.
The team will compete against top U-22 club teams from Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Sean Helliwell, who coaches at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., will be the USA Division 3 All-Star Soccer Team’s head coach.
“When I opened up the email [from Smith], I was so excited,” Santoro said. “I didn’t know what to think about it at first.”
The fact that Santoro made the USA Division 3 All-Star Soccer Team is no fluke. Soccer has been in Santoro’s blood long before he contemplated attending Pacific Lutheran University.
Growing up in an athletic family in Hartford, Conn., Santoro was exposed to a variety of sports at a young age.
Santoro’s father didn’t just play one sport. Instead, he played nearly every sport conceivable — including basketball, baseball and football — with his athletic, bulky frame contributing to his success.
Contrary to his father, Santoro focused on honing his skills in soccer.
Santoro’s love for soccer began earlier than most adolescents. Starting in kindergarten, Santoro became infatuated with soccer because he said he loved winning games.
His recreational kindergarten team was quite talented and proved victorious in many matches, unlike the lacrosse and tee ball teams he was also involved with.
Those teams were the exact opposite, in that they could never win a game and lacked the athleticism to truly compete with other teams.
“I’m very competitive in sports and hate losing,” Santoro said.
His hunger to win more games carried over to his high school years, where Santoro was a member of the Skyline Spartans soccer team.
In Santoro’s senior year of high school, the Spartans advanced to the Washington state quarterfinals, only to lose to Lake Stevens 2-1.
In Skyline’s 2010 season, Santoro accounted for six of the team’s goals as the team boasted a 12-6-2 record. By earning more wins than losses and draws combined that season, Santoro had reached his goal of “winning games.”
But he wasn’t done.
Once Santoro made the decision to attend PLU in the spring of 2010, head coach John Yorke knew he had a prized recruit in his arsenal.
“When he first came to PLU, he wasn’t very sure of himself, but over the course of these past four years, he’s become much more confident,” Yorke said. “He’s very good on his feet, and he’s strong and quick. He’s a very talented soccer player.”
Santoro made an immediate impact on the soccer pitch when he arrived at PLU. As a first-year in 2010, Santoro scored two goals, including one game-winner, and tallied five assists in his initial collegiate season.
Santoro’s soccer success didn’t cease after that. His yearning for winning games only grew.
While Santoro accounted for seven of the Lutes’ goals in his first three seasons on the PLU squad, his goal scoring potential came to full fruition in his senior year.
As one of four seniors to start every game during the 2013 season, Santoro found the back of the net seven times.
The 2013 season was undoubtedly one of the more successful seasons in team history, as the Lutes set a program record by going undefeated in the first 12 games.
With a 13-4-3 final record, the Lutes tied for the fourth-most wins in a season in team history.
Standing at 5 feet 11 inches and having the lung capacity of a horse, Santoro has matured into a physical specimen.
His ability to run himself ragged and provide teammates with nice setups has made Santoro one of the premier soccer players in the Northwest Conference.
As important as winning is to Santoro, living with some of his best friends, otherwise known as “dogs,” for the last two years, has far outweighed seeking victory on the pitch.
HOME SWEET HOME
Surrounded by some of his closest friends in their cozy living room, Santoro tosses his head back and lets out a howl. Fellow senior Jeff Piaquadio tells a joke, causing every “dog” in the living room, including Santoro, to break out in hysteria.
The content of the joke is irrelevant. What is relevant, however, is the fact that Santoro is putting on a masterful display with a soccer ball.
The fact that the ball is a replica of the Adidas Jo’bulani World Cup ball is barely noticeable. Tears adorn the sides of the worn ball, but that doesn’t stop Santoro from gently maneuvering it around the room.
With a tap of his right foot, the ball takes a high bounce and lands directly on his left foot. The aerial tricks are one thing, but Santoro’s dribbling expertise is exemplified with his deft touch.
Seemingly dancing around the room, Santoro caresses the ball with his feet. It’s as if he were born with a soccer ball in his grip.
Santoro’s group of “dogs” consist of seniors Sam Watkins, Cameron Veres, Piaquadio and junior Justin Manao. All of them share Santoro’s passion for soccer.
The term “dog” or “dogger” is often used around the Brown House, the abode where the five reside. That’s because they view themselves as guys who are “sure to cause trouble and be loud.”
For the most part, that statement is accurate.
“It’s been incredible to live with these guys for the last two years,” Santoro said. “They’re my best friends, and I don’t know what I would do without them. They’re a crazy bunch of guys.”
Santoro is the group’s outlier in that he is usually reserved and quiet. He does have his momentary outbursts however.
“He’s a lot crazier than most people think he is,” Watkins said. “He may be quiet, but once you get to know him, he’s a dog.”
Soon enough, Santoro will depart May 27 for Orlando to prepare for the USA Division 3 All-Star Soccer Team tour in Brazil.
This could be the final time Santoro plays soccer competitively. All of the skills and lessons Santoro has learned over the course of his 16-year soccer career will come down to this momentous occasion in Brazil.
Temporarily leaving his “dogs” will be emotionally hard for Santoro.
However, playing soccer on an international stage in a country known for its soccer prominence is definitely something to bark about. ◼︎