Around this time last year, St. John’s Prep soccer standout Carter Ocko identified the University of Tampa as a possible college destination.
Classmate Ben Alpern, meanwhile, was just focused on making the Eagles’ varsity soccer team for the first time.
Now, after sensational senior seasons, both are headed to Division 2 UTampa to continue playing soccer. Ocko and Alpern will be attending on partial academic scholarships and will suit up for the Spartans next fall.
The opportunity to continue playing is not surprising for Ocko, an excellent sweeper for the Eagles who was both a Catholic Conference and Salem News all-star this year. Alpern has more of a Cinderella story.
“I always loved playing soccer; I just never thought I’d be able to play in college,” Alpern, a Beverly resident, said. “I thought maybe I’d get a couple more shots (to play) because it was my senior year. Other than that, I didn’t expect to play.”
Alpern spent his junior year in goal for the Eagles’ junior varsity team. He — and everyone else associated with St. John’s Prep — fully expected senior captain Brian Keogh to start in goal for the varsity this past season, but an injury opened the door for Alpern. The 6-foot-1 Alpern made the most of his chance, helping the Eagles to a 17-2-2 overall record. St. John’s advanced to the Division 1 North final, where it fell to Somerville in a 1-0 game, and Alpern joined Ocko as a Catholic Conference and Salem News all-star.
In 20 games, Alpern only allowed 10 goals and posted 12 shutouts.
“I didn’t think Brian would have gotten injured as severely as he did, but I was definitely ready to step up,” Alpern said. “It was a great opportunity and I thought I did a pretty good job.”