After spending a year starting together on the varsity team at Conestoga High School in Tredyffrin, Pennsylvania, “Stoga” boys David Zipkin and Will Smith have reunited as key players on the Lehigh men’s soccer team.
Now in their fourth and second years, respectively, Zipkin and Smith have strengthened their relationship from high school as they continue to establish a lasting legacy of Conestoga alumni playing for Lehigh.
Zipkin said while the pair weren’t close friends in high school, they’ve been able to develop their friendship by playing together at the collegiate level.
Just as they started together at Conestoga during Zipkin’s senior year, Zipkin and Smith headlined a 11-7-1 Lehigh team as a starting midfielder and goalkeeper, respectively. With two years as his senior, Zipkin has posed as Smith’s role model.
Zipkin said while Smith liked joking around on their high school team, he still wanted to be a captain in training.
“Coming into Lehigh, knowing that (Smith) wanted to come here, I encouraged and wanted him to join the team because I know he’s a good player,” Zipkin said. “We’ve always had a good relationship and been close since high school.”
Smith said as a sophomore in high school, he was still trying to find his way and gain more insight into what competitive soccer on a high school team would look like.
Zipkin was able to help.
Smith said Zipkin also helped him with the college recruitment process after he moved on to play at Lehigh.
Although Zipkin’s presence was not the main reason Smith came to Lehigh, he said Zipkin helped make the transition easier.
“When I had questions, I definitely went to (Zipkin), and he was able to give me answers,” Smith said. “I knew from him and other people who went here that they liked Lehigh a lot.”
Zipkin said he understands the importance of having someone you know to smooth the transition between high school and college, as he too eased into the program with the help of a Conestoga alum.
He said Danny Gonzalez, ’17, who was a sophomore when Zipkin started college, helped with his transition to Lehigh.
“(Gonzalez) kind of started the (Conestoga) trend toward Lehigh,” Zipkin said.
The camaraderie and chemistry Zipkin and Smith exhibit on the field has paid dividends and helped the standouts as they welcome new Conestoga players to Lehigh. Zipkin and Smith helped usher in Conestoga alum and Lehigh freshman midfielder Blaise Milanek to the program this fall.
“Having the ongoing chemistry between (Zipkin), me and now Blaise Milanek playing together for multiple years besides college definitely helps with that team chemistry,” Smith said.
Associate head coach Ryan Hess said having players who already understand and are familiar with each others’ styles has been beneficial for the team.
“There’s a lot of pride from those Conestoga boys,” Hess said. “A lot of (Conestoga’s) teams have competed for and won state championships, so there’s an extra sense of camaraderie and belief that these guys have in each other, which helps our team to be successful.”
Hess said while all three students are different ages, they have gone through the same high school program, been coached by the same people and tend to have similar traits. He said they’re all hard-working and have a good understanding of each other, which has helped the team find success.
The Conestoga program continues to fuel the Lehigh men’s soccer team, which has recruited yet another “Stoga” player, Nick Jennings.
“Our relationship with the players we have has helped us to recruit young players like (Milanek) and (Jennings) coming in next year,” Hess said. “Their relationship with our older guys helps them transition and make the decision that Lehigh is the place for them.”