Every year, Ben Steketee improved.
And as he did, so did the Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School boys soccer team.
Steketee spent the first three years of his high school soccer career playing center midfield for the Dragons, and every year he was there, they enjoyed success.
During his freshman season, Masterman made the Public League quarterfinals. A year later, the Dragons advanced to the semifinals. Last year, when they played in the spring, they fell in the Public League championship game.
This year, they went all the way.
Moving to striker to help the team with some needed scoring, Steketee scored the winning goal in overtime during the Public League championship game to guide the Dragons to their first league championship, a 2-1 decision over Abraham Lincoln.
In the semifinals, Masterman upset Central to get to the title tilt. While the championship victory was sweet, getting past the Lancers might have been even better for Steketee and his teammates.
“That was a big game because they’re our rivals,” Steketee said. “And honestly, we were the underdogs, we are always the underdogs because we’re a small school. I can’t speak for every team, but Central beats us a lot. In terms of sporting events, we’re always the underdog, so beating two schools that are a lot bigger than us means a lot.
“We’ve gotten better every year I’ve been here. We made the quarterfinals, then the semifinals, and (in the spring), we lost 5-1 to Northeast. To win the Public League championship this year, it was surreal.”
The Bustleton native had a lot to say about the outcome of the season, too.
For his entire career, Steketee was a midfielder, the same position he usually plays on his club team, but this year he worked really hard to learn the new position. It clearly worked out well because he had the winner in the championship.
“It was hard learning a new position, I had difficulty at first because I would have a tendency to check back across the field, so it was a pretty big adjustment, but I made it work,” Steketee said. “I just had to remember what my role was. It was easier as time went on, and my teammates helped me a lot.”
Steketee was there for his teammates, too.
The Dragons had only three seniors on their roster, and a lot of younger guys had to play key minutes. That happens a lot more in smaller schools like Masterman. So Steketee took his role of team captain extremely seriously.
“I didn’t know this was going to be a great year because we are young, and I never thought we’d have a chance to win the championship because we only have 150 boys in our school,” Steketee said. “When I came to Masterman, I never thought this would be the way it would end. This year, we had a lot of good soccer players, but when I was a freshman, a lot of the players weren’t soccer players, they were just playing to help.
“I tried to help the younger guys along. We had two captains, but I was the one who did more of the talking. When I can offer advice, I do.”
Steketee’s soccer career at Masterman is over, but he’s looking forward to accomplishing a lot more before graduation.
He’ll take part in a running program at the school, a volunteer program that runs marathons and half marathons, including the Broad Street Run.
That will help keep in him shape for when he goes to college. In the fall, he’s bound for Bard College in Upstate New York.
“I picked it for the same reason I picked Masterman, for the academic program, the depth of different courses and the academic excellence there,” said Steketee , who maintains a 4.29 grade point average. “The school will let me pursue science. I’m interested in environmental science and biology. Also interested in a range of physical therapy as well. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll end up doing.”
He also has a future in soccer, both at the college level and while wearing stripes.
During his free time, Steketee works as an official for Pennsylvania Youth Soccer. He couldn’t have found a better gig.
“I ref in the city and nearby suburbs,” said Steketee, who had seven goals on the year. “It’s been a positive experience. It’s helped me. It helped me take a larger leadership role. I guess it’s helped me as a player, too, I’m a little more lenient with the refs because I understand what they’re going through. It’s not an easy job.”
Neither was winning the Public League championship and representing the city in the state playoffs. Masterman lost to state runner up Faith Christian 1-0 in the first round.
“It felt like a dream to me,” Steketee said. “It came out of a movie. It didn’t feel real, winning the Public League. It’s been a progression on how far we made it.
“Masterman has a great academics, but I loved playing soccer there. The community is awesome and everyone is super dedicated. I’m really blown away by what we are able to accomplish.”