MENS’ COLLEGE SOCCER
“It’s a dream come true,” said Darien’s top soccer player, senior Bennan Branca.
He’s not going free to Disneyland, hasn’t won Lotto, nor has he been set up on a blind date with a beauty queen.
Branca’s talking about something, he’s worked for, and won: a place on the Columbia University soccer pitch.
“That was the school I was dying to go to since I was eight,” said Branca, who makes it official next month and is on a verbal to play for the Lions next season. “I told my mom, every morning, that I wanted to play Division I soccer, at Columbia at the Ivy League. That’s all I wanted to do.”
“He did well to get in there. He did this all on his own.”
— Jon Bradley
Being a soccer dream, it adds a literal dimension to ‘look ma, no hands.’
But it’s been all grit that got him there as Darien’s first recruited for the sport at such a high level.
“He did well to get in there,” said Darien High coach Jon Bradley. “He did this all on his own.”
Branca led Darien with 10 goals, 11 assists last season, the Wave’ best, when it went to FCIAC semis and states.
“I think he is going to have a good chance to start as a freshman,” Bradley said. “I think he has all the attributes you would want on the field. And off the field he’s a great kid. Which is what those kind of schools look for.”
Branca came from Manhattan to Darien as a freshman having played for the Kickers, now the Ajax, in New York.
He went to the NYC Lab School on the lower West Side prior to DHS.
“He’s strong, he’s quick, he understands the game,” said Bradley of the center midfielder and forward. “Everything they are looking for in a college player.”
“They actually pursued me, which was an awesome feeling,” Branca said. “I was at a tournament and they told my coach that they really liked the way I played.”
That was at the Potomac Tournament playing for his club, Beachside, out of Bridgeport, based at UB, last summer.
“It’s nice to be wanted. Everyone wants to be wanted,” Branca said. “They saw me before that. But after, they were interested.”
Beachside coach Micky Kydes is friends and an associate of Kevin Anderson, none other than the Lions coach.
“So I am just very fortunate to have the coach that I love, be at Columbia,” Branca said. “All the stars lined up, and it just kind of worked out perfect. And I’m very grateful for that.”
“I think for boys soccer in Darien, kids will now start to realize that they can get into college at a high level playing soccer,” Bradley added. “The general consensus in Darien is that you only get into college in certain sports.
“If you work hard, and you’re good enough, they’ll find you for soccer.”
“I’m just super-excited, because, that’s where I wanted to go to college,” said Branca. “Being able to go to all these places and see all these people, you know. And meet new kinds of people and players. It’s very diverse, and I just love the whole feeling of the city, honestly.”