EDISON — Jordan Beckett of Plainfield and Sean Gardner of South Amboy, seniors and soccer players making headlines at The Wardlaw-Hartridge School in North Edison will be taking their game to the next level as Division I players, marking the first time in Wardlaw-Hartridge history that teammates from the same sport are moving on to the highest stage of collegiate athletics. Both Rams signed their official letters of intent earlier this spring and will be playing at schools in the Atlantic-10 Conference.
“This shows how high level players can reach their goals and still play soccer at a small school like Wardlaw-Hartridge,” said Mike Romeo, Wardlaw-Hartridge Head Coach and Westfield resident. “We open more doors academically for them, so it’s the perfect marriage for a high level player. This proves that high level players can reach their dreams and still play here.”
Jordan will play at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, while Sean will suit up for Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA in the fall. Jordan and Sean will be trying to make plays against players with similar athletic prowess. They won’t be able to sprint past defenders all the time.
“They’re both ready for the next level, but it’s up to them,” Coach Romeo said. “They’re starting to realize that they have to take care of their game off the field. They have to arrive at training camp at the highest level of physical fitness. It’s not about skill or technique, it’s a question of whether they’re up for the challenge of Division I soccer.”
Both Rams understand that they will be challenged in the A-10 Conference. Their opponents will be bigger, stronger and faster than high school athletes. Jordan and Sean are prepared to put in the extra work. Jordan’s pre-season training starts August 16, while Sean will begin his college workouts on August 10.
“In college, the game is faster and my touch will need to be faster,” Jordan said. “I will have to learn to anticipate my next move faster and earlier. I have to get my body to the point where I’m ready to go.”
“I have to do even more training every day,” Sean said. “It will be faster and more physical. I have to step up the weight training and speed to get stronger and more fit.”
The Dayton Flyers lost many seniors to graduation, increasing Beckett’s chances of being called into action as a freshman. Beckett, a center midfielder and playmaker, said that he’s anxious and nervous but also very excited about playing Division I soccer.
“Jordan provides excellent size and athleticism and is exceptional in the air,” Dayton Head Coach Dennis Currier said.
Sean, a speedy striker, could also see action as a freshman. Duquesne graduated some seniors and the Dukes will need help on offense, which plays right into Sean’s talents.
“Forwards live and die by goals,” Coach Romeo said. “If Sean can show them he can score goals, there’s an excellent chance he’ll be put in the game as a freshman. If he gets hot, he’ll see more playing time.”
“We’re very excited to have Sean with us next year,” Duquesne Head Coach Jake Quimet said.
Jordan and Sean certainly will be missed at Wardlaw-Hartridge. Whenever Coach Romeo’s team needed a goal, one of the senior stars stepped up. They accounted for 42 of the team’s 53 goals last fall, including Jordan’s dramatic game-winner on a free kick against Highland Park on Homecoming Day.
“We’re clearly going to have a void to fill, and it goes far beyond statistics,” Coach Romeo said. “Their presence will be felt for years. These two players raised our level. They demanded more of their teammates. They made everyone play at a faster pace. We’re going to miss them but we’re benefiting far more from having them in our program.”
“They made everyone else better,” said junior defender Ian English of Cranford, next year’s team captain who had to mark Jordan and Sean during the team’s practice sessions. “I have a lot of respect for them. They showed great leadership and they really put a competitive drive in me. I had to play at such a high level because of them. We’re going to miss them a lot.”
The Wartridge-Hartridge dynamic duo saved their best seasons for last, scoring 21 goals apiece to lead the Rams last fall. Jordan, a four-year varsity starter at Wardlaw-Hartridge, finished his scholastic career with 44 goals and 40 assists for 128 points. Sean, who played at South Amboy as a freshman and three years for the Rams, finished his Wardlaw-Hartridge career with 48 goals and 33 assists for 129 points.
“We are very proud of what Jordan and Sean have been able to accomplish athletically,” Wartridge-Hartridge Athletic Director Patricia Malizia said. “Their commitment to soccer had really taken them far and helped them become members of two prestigious Division I athletics programs. The preparation they have received in the classroom and on our fields will certainly help them to continue their success at Dayton and Duquesne.”
KICKING THEIR WAY TO HISTORY…Senior soccer standouts Jordan Beckett of Plainfield, left, and Sean Gardner of South Amboy, right, with Head Coach Mike Romeo of Westfield, became the first Wardlaw-Hartridge School teammates to sign national letters of intent to compete in Division I athletics in the same year.
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