Papanicolaou himself has also benefitted from the new Viking vibe, exploding for nine goals and two assists so far this season.
“I don’t know what it is,” Papanicolaou said of his offensive production in his senior year. “And I don’t care.”
“Going into the season, everyone thought we (wouldn’t be any good),” said senior defender Eric Ninthala. “We wanted to change that and we did. We have more fans at the night games now, and we’ve never seen our coach smile before.”
Coming into the season, the Vikes were senior-heavy with nine, but four never had any varsity time. Smith credits Papanicolaou, Ninthala and Tzitzon as well as his fellow senior co-captains Josh Brown and Niko Marcolini for being the elder statesmen leading the way.
“It’s the character kids who would admit, ‘Yeah, we weren’t a perfect team. We had some big-time issues,’” said Smith. “But they accepted the criticism, and they’ve adjusted to it. And if we didn’t have some of the leaders that we do, we wouldn’t have gotten over the hump.”
“Pretty much every aspect of years past was changed,” said Tzitzon. “Prior to this year, the offseason would have consisted of some captains practices and some summer league. This year, everyone started spending more time with each other. Now, we’re not just acquaintances on the field, but we’re friends. The chemistry keeps building up, and we enjoy playing with each other.”
“I look at it as a family,” said Marcolini. “Everyone just loves each other. I love my team.”
Part of being a family is sticking through the good times and the bad and growing stronger as a result, a concept these Vikes are beginning to become familiar with.
“Right now, the minimum is the state tournament,” Tzitzon said. “We want a home game under the lights right now. We want to go far in this, we are not done.”
“I can’t see it going any other way,” added Marcolini.