Individual achievements have been plentiful for Susquehanna Valley boys soccer player Mike Rood.
He has twice been named to the all-state team for New York, earning first-team honors last season. Rood also has been three times a Southern Tier Athletic Conference all-star.
He was the lone high school athlete to start regularly on the Greater Binghamton FC team that played in the National Premier Soccer League this year. Next fall, Rood will play collegiately at Division I Hartwick College.
Yes, since joining Susquehanna Valley’s varsity team as an eighth-grader in 2008, Rood has about done it all — almost.
Beginning next week, Rood and the Sabers will hope to begin a run toward something that has eluded the program since 2000: a Section 4 Class B title.
“It would be very disappointing,” said Rood of the prospect of finishing his scholastic career without a Section 4 title. “But I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m playing every game like it’s a sectional final, and we expect to win every game.”
Susquehanna Valley (10-2) has been ranked as high as fifth in Class B by the New York State Sports Writers Association and is currently ranked seventh. At the forefront of that success has been Rood.
The senior midfielder has 12 goals and 14 assists this season, cementing his status as not only the best all-around player in the area, but perhaps the best player in school history.
“He’s always been a gifted player,” said Susquehanna Valley coach Ted Hudock, who has known Rood since he was 6 and has been his varsity coach the past three seasons. “Honestly, when I first started coaching him I couldn’t believe how far above in some aspects he was, compared to guys I played with who were great players.
“He has foot skill that is rare…he can break players down one-on-one — it’s his gift. He ability with the ball on his feet, he’s as fast as anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Joe Stento, a third-year varsity player and good friend of Rood’s, echoes Hudock’s sentiment.
“He’s the one, he controls our team and really makes us come together,” Stento said. “We have a lot of talent, but he’s the glue.”
Rood knows failing to win a Section 4 title would leave a void. He has not lacked in opportunities, twice helping Susquehanna Valley reach the Section 4 Class B title game.
The first chance came as an eighth-grader in 2008, losing as the top seed to Chenango Forks. Last year, Susquehanna Valley lost 3-2 in overtime to Oneonta.
Both losses stung Rood, but last year’s even more, as he held a more prominent role on the team as well as knowing time was drawing near on his high school career.
“That was the game, he walked off the field, there was that burning desire, because we had gotten so close,” Hudock said. “It left him with the though that he’s not going out like that again.”
To prove his point, Hudock points to a game this season September 28 against Oneonta, in which the Sabers prevailed 1-0. With Susquehanna Valley leading late, Rood had no qualms about concentrating on defense.
“I’ll do whatever the team needs me to do,” Rood said. “I feel like I’ve proven myself to those I need to prove myself to. I’m not worried about scoring goals, I’m just worried about winning.”
Al Mydlinski, the man instrumental in building Susquehanna Valley into a soccer power during his 29-year coaching stint at the school, was Rood’s first varsity coach. As one who has seen his fair share of high-level players, it says something that Mydlinski had no qualms about putting Rood on the varsity roster as an eighth-grader.
“He could have been there in seventh grade if not for a concern for physical injury because of size difference,” Mydlinski said. “But clearly as an eighth-grader, it was an easy move to move him to the varsity.
“I’ve had better athletes, I’ve had competitors who are comparable, I’ve had guys who might as technically proficient, but overall Mike exceeds anyone else I’ve ever coached.”
The Sabers are not a one-man team, as they also feature brothers Justin and Ryan Caroway, and goalie Colin Manchester, to name a few.
But Rood will be the one to take the Sabers as far as they can go. And he is ready for the challenge.
“I’m relied on a little bit more to connect the team, to carry the team,” Rood said. “Not in the sense that I have to do everything, but that they expect me to be a part of the team’s success.
“It’s been frustrating that I haven’t won it yet, but we’re definitely capable of doing it.”