By Keith Mills
|Former Baltimore Blast player Lee Tschantret is now the soccer coach at Loyola Blakefield.
In his eight years with the Blast, Baltimore's indoor soccer team won three Major Indoor Soccer League championships -- and Tschantret was a big reason why. He defended well, blocked shots, ran the floor, scored goals and played with a passion and fire that made him a fan favorite.
Four years after he ended his Blast career, Tschantret still displays the signature fire and emotion on the high school soccer field as coach of the Loyola Blakefield Dons.
"We've got a great group of kids, and I am absolutely loving it," said Tschantret. "I really enjoy working at the school and it's fun working with the young guys."
Along with Steve Nichols at McDonogh and Barry Stitz at Archbishop Curley, Tschantret is one of three former Blast players now coaching in the MIAA A Conference. Tschantret began coaching at Loyola in the summer of 2006 when he was still playing for the Blast. He was an assistant to Kyle Swords, another former Blast player who coached the Dons through much of the decade.
Swords left Loyola when his wife, Lellie, an assistant to Janine Tucker with the women's lacrosse program at Johns Hopkins, left to take the coaching job at the University of Cincinnati.
Tschantret has been coach at Loyola for the last two years. After a crushing 4-3 double-overtime loss to Calvert Hall Sept. 21 (the Dons led 3-0 in the first half), Loyola rebounded with a 1-0 win over Archbishop Spalding Sept. 28 when Kyle Fowler scored the game's only goal in the first half.
The Dons have an interesting blend of talent, experience and youth. Along with Kevin Carder, Joe Fili, Joe Taylor, Elliott Andelman and goalie Mike Hackett, Fowler is one of six senior starters. Jamie Dubyoski, Loyola's leading scorer with four goals and five assists, is the lone junior starter while Jeremy and Michael DeGraffenreidt, Tony Butta, and John Jlopleh are Tschantret's highly-skilled sophomore starters.
"I am very honest and up front with my boys," said Tschantret. "I think they respect that. We do have fun. We do get to joke around and I try to bring the passion out of the game and out of them."
That's a philosophy he picked up from his former high school coach and mentor, Aldo Nardiello. Tschantret grew up in Albany, N.Y. He played for Nardiello first at Christian Brothers Academy in Albany and then again at the University of Albany. The 1987 and '88 All-American's 51 career goals are still the Great Danes' all-time record.
"I was really fortunate," said Tschantret, who also was a captain for the United States gold medal-winning Futsal team in the summer of 2004. "He coached me for three years in high school and four in college. I had some great coaches along the way after that but he left an amazing impression on me. The thing I look back on now as a parent and an adult is that he always treated me like a young man."
Tschantret left Albany and began a professional career taking him to five cities before he arrived in Baltimore to play for the Blast in the fall of 2000. Along with Tarik Walker, P.J. Wakefield, Billy Nelson, Giuliano Celenza, Denison Cabral and Sagu, he formed the backbone of a team that dominated the MISL throughout the decade.
Tschantret's trademark was an all-out style winning him the respect of his teammates, the adulation of Blast fans, disdain from opponents and consternation from officials. Tschantret was one of the most penalized players in the league, but was also one of its toughest players. Three times he helped the Blast win league championships and he still savors his eight years here.
"We won because we had great chemistry," said Tschantret. "There were times when we didn't have the best team and it wasn't even close. But we won because we would all fight tooth and nail for one another. It was great. Those bonds that you build when you win championships or even those rare losing seasons when you're all just fighting for one another out of pride -- that's what it's all about."
That's Tschantret's mission now – to instill the chemistry, the bond, the brotherhood in his Loyola players, while giving them the foundation to benefit them at the next level.
"Wherever they go I want them to be successful," said Tschnatret. "I don't want to always try and get the ball to my two or three best players while everyone else can be spectators. If they go to college and play, I want them to know how to move off the ball, how to create space for others. I think they appreciate it. I hope they do."
They certainly appreciate, and no doubt respect, their coach's trademark intensity. During the second half of the Dons' win over Spalding, Tschnatret disagreed with referee Billy Warren over a call and let him know it ... in Italian.
That's Tschantret the coach, and he loves it. After a 20-year career ending two years ago in Philadelphia, he cherishes his time as a father, coach and former player.
"I look back on it now and it was a great ride," said Tschantret. "All the Blast guys living in town, it's great when we get together and go out and look back and say, 'Hey do you remember when?' Listen to me; I sound like an old man already."
Posted Oct. 4, 2010