SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 18, 2014

Jean DePlacido column: Postseason honors roll in for Finkelstein


The Salem News

---- — Jean DePlacido

Luke Finkelstein had an outstanding soccer season at Wheaton College and the list of postseason honors he received reflect his success. The former Peabody High captain was named to the ECAC All-New England first team. He was also a NEWMAC first team selection and an NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association) D-3 All-New England South team.

“My team did well (16-5-0), and I had a pretty good year,” said Finkelstein, a former standout in the Aztec club soccer program. “It’s very tough to make an all-star team like that, but after being on the All-New England second team as a sophomore I had hoped to repeat. Moving up to the first team was even better.”

Finkelstein was tied for second in the conference and 35th in the country for assists with nine. He also had two goals in 22 games, and ranked 18th in the conference for points. He is currently sixth on the all-time Wheaton assist record list with 24 in 60 games.

“Over the summer I played in a PDL (Player Development League) team Real Boston Rams in the USL which is the second division of US soccer for college players. That kept me competing at a high level and training with good guys. The coaching staff was excellent, and the conditioning program was very helpful. I came back ready to go.”

Finkelstein dominated the middle of the field in high school, but moved to left midfield as a college freshman. He returned to his center midfield position for the Lyons the following year.

“When I was in high school I always wanted to play D-1 soccer and a couple of schools recruited me, but one of my Aztec coaches said going to Division 3 would be best for me,” said Finkelstein. “I was very small at the time, and I wanted to play right away instead of having to sit for a couple of years waiting for my turn to come.

“Brandeis, Hobart, and Wheaton were at the top of my list. After I did an overnight visit I fell in love with Wheaton. The coaches impressed me, and so far my college choice has been amazing.”

Finkelstein is majoring in psychology with a minor in dance. He thinks his dance classes help on the soccer field because it helps keep him flexible.

“At the end of my sophomore year I knew I wanted to major in psychology,” he said. “I took an African dance class to fill a requirement and really enjoyed it. I stuck with it, and kept taking other classes. I’ll admit it’s an unusual minor for an athlete, but I like to do my own thing, and it relaxes me. I have a teacher with a good background in athletics, and she knows I appreciate doing it.”

Finkelstein is setting high goals for his senior year. Winning the league again is first on his list.

“It’s not an easy path because our league (NEWMAC) is so tough,” he said. “If we do win we automatically qualify for the NCAA tournament. This year we went to the second round (shut out Plattsburgh State before losing to St. Lawrence), but we’d like to go even farther next time. The Sweet Sixteen sounds really good. Soccer is a year round activity for me, and I want to finish up with a strong senior year.

“We’re only graduating one senior which is unusual for any college sport, and we have a good freshman class coming in along with a couple coming back, who left school for academic reasons. I know it’s not going to be easy, and we all have to put in the work from now until the season begins.”

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Other Aztec alums receiving all-star honors include two athletes from Middleton. Kaitlin Sampson, a junior defender for Pfeiffer, was named to the All-Southeast Region third team while junior forward Gabby Russo of the University of Tampa was chosen D-2 All South Region team second team. Ipswich’s Hannah Weagle, a sophomore forward at Franklin Pierce, was named D-2 All East third team, and WPI senior forward Chris Ciampa of Danvers was selected to the All New England Region North second team.

Alicia Wright of Salem was chosen to be one of five ring card girls for the Inaugural American Fighting Championship. The competition to choose the five girls was held at the Greatest Bar in Boston last weekend. Former two time World Boxing Association heavyweight champ John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz’s new AFO will promote pro and amateur mixed martial arts and boxing events.

Judges included former New England Patriots Matt Chatham and Jermaine Wiggins, fitness specialist Maria Diaz, and former Pats cheerleader Reia Connor. Ruiz, who celebrated his 42nd birthday that night, is the only world heavyweight champ of Latino heritage. Ruiz is promoting the new AFO that is expected to begin in the near future.

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Jean DePlacido’s column appears every Saturday in The Salem News. You can contact her at JMDeplacido@aol.com.