The Brown and White spoke with three men’s soccer alumni — Cam Omsberg, ‘12, Jamie Luchini, ‘16, and Mark Forrest, ‘19, — to reflect on their years at Lehigh and catch up on how they have filled their time since graduation and how they’ve handled the pandemic.
Q: I read that you’re currently a (men’s soccer) assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Northeastern University. Was that your first job out of Lehigh?
CO: It wasn’t my first job. Right after I graduated, I started as an assistant coach at Bates College in Maine. I was there for three years, and now I’ve been at Northeastern about four and a half years.
Q: What differences have you found between coaching a Division III team versus a Division I school?
CO: It’s been great, I’ve really enjoyed both. I’m from Maine, so to get back closer to home and closer to family after college was nice. Bates is a great academic school, so you get some good players there. The interesting thing about their conference is that it’s extremely limited with offseason interaction between players and coaches, so most Division III schools have around 16 practice days and one game day. At Bates you weren’t allowed to do anything else, so the players were pretty much on their own in the offseason. You know Northeastern, same as Lehigh – we’re training close to every day, even in the offseason – so your involvement and interaction with the players is a lot higher, which I enjoy more because you’re able to spend more time with them.
Q: You studied journalism at Lehigh and at one point served as the assistant sports editor for The Brown and White. Where did your interest in writing come from?
CO: Yes, I did study journalism. I was the assistant sports editor for two semesters, which was great, and did an internship with Lehigh Sports, which was great also. That was with Steve Lomangino and Justin Lafleur. Initially, I wanted to be a sports writer when I went to college. Once I got into there, I could see that the jobs – especially in the newspaper business – were trending down, so when I was getting out it didn’t seem like a great field to go into. At some point in college, my dream job was to be a beat writer for an MLS team, but I realized with how involved and invested I am in soccer it would be hard to just watch the team all the time. In the summers when we were on school break, I was always coaching youth camps, and I really enjoyed it. The coaching transition was great, and I loved that, so I stuck with it.
Q: How were you able to manage the responsibilities that come with being an editor for The Brown and White as well as a team captain?
CO: As far as I can remember, Jessica (Fromm) Riordan,‘12, was our sports editor at the time, and C.J. McCollum,‘13, and myself were assistant sports editors. Press days were on Wednesdays and Sundays, and our team usually played Tuesdays and Saturdays, so I would go in on Wednesdays and he would go in on Sundays. It was great that we were able to split it up and both be involved.
Q: Do you have a favorite team moment at Lehigh?
CO: I would definitely say when we took a trip to California my junior year. We played Stanford (University) and UC Berkeley there. It was an amazing experience to be able to spend three or four days in San Francisco. I think the year before, Cal had been to the Final Four and Stanford had been to the Sweet Sixteen, so we knew they’d be really tough games, and the whole team was up for it and we played well. Our first game we tied (UC Berkeley) 1-1, and our second game we beat Stanford 1-0.
Q: How have you been spending your time during the quarantine?
CO: I’ve been at Northeastern for the most part. I’ve made three or four trips back home to Maine, since it’s only about a three hour trip. But this is probably the most I’ve been in Maine and seen my family in the past five years or so, which is nice. Apart from that, we’re trying to keep up with the new normal work schedule as best as possible, which is essentially just checking in with our players on the phone and Zoom meetings. You’re still recruiting, but you can’t go to games in person, which is strange because as a college coach, that’s typically what you do every weekend. We’re watching videos of the games, but we still can’t attend, so recruiting has been quite a bit different and there’s certainly been a little bit more free time.
Q: How has your Lehigh soccer experience helped shape the person you’ve become over the years?
CO: It’s pretty much the defining factor for me. I married a Lehigh women’s soccer alum whom I met in school, all my best friends are Lehigh soccer players (our wedding was basically a Lehigh soccer reunion). To see how great the guys around my year are doing has been awesome. Even during quarantine, we’re having Zoom calls with all our old soccer teammates once a week, catching up with those guys.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?
CO: The only thing I’d add is just to thank coach Dean Koski and coach Mike Benn when he was there for giving me the opportunity to play at Lehigh, which was just an incredible experience. I could probably tell you the scores and the goal scorers of every single one of my games during my four years there … Yeah, just vivid memories and great memories.
Q: What are you up to being about five years out of Lehigh?
JL: The first year after school, while I was actually in my final spring semester at Lehigh, I signed a contract with the USL Championship team of the union in Philadelphia – the Bethlehem Steel. They actually played their home games in the football stadium at Goodman. I did that for about a year, and the season ended in October or November, then I actually accepted a job from two former Lehigh soccer guys. They work at an energy fund, a proprietary trading shop called Vectra Capital, and I’ve been there ever since, for almost the last four years now, trading specifically.
Q: What was your experience like playing for the Bethlehem Steel?
JL: For me, it was midway through my college career I realized there might be a chance that I could play professionally at the next level. Ultimately, I had a good season my senior year, which gave me the opportunity. I had wanted to play in the MLS rather than stay with the USL team, but for what it was I think it was a good opportunity and a good experience. It was different than what I thought it would be, but at the end of the day, I’m glad I did it and it’s something I can always look back on and be proud of. After one season, I had a decision to make as to whether I wanted to make this my career or just enter the workforce and utilize my degree. Ultimately, I decided on that.
Q: How have you been staying busy during the pandemic? Where have you been situated during this time?
JL: I’ve been back home in Pittsburgh. Vectra’s office is in midtown New York, which closed down during the quarantine period, so I’ve been back home since mid-March with no real plans to return yet being that New York is still partially shut down. It’s been nice to be home with the family, friends and people I wouldn’t necessarily see on a week to week basis.
Q: What are your favorite team memories as well as individual memories from your Lehigh playing career?
JL: As a team, part of the worst memories and one of the best memories was my first two years – I think we had six wins in those seasons combined – so that was tough. A lot of thoughts go through your mind about what’s wrong with you as an individual player, what’s wrong with you as a team, and ultimately to go from that dark place as a team to winning a Patriot League Championship senior year and having a good run junior year, I think as a collective group to go through that together would have to be one of the best team feelings. Individually, early on in my career, I think some of the coaching staff was a little unsure of my best fit for my position on the team. But then getting to see it unfold and becoming the position I always wanted to be, which is more of an attackman-like player, just seeing everything pan out and getting the career I wanted to have was probably as self-fulfilling as I could have hoped for there. I think the excitement of that senior season is part of the reason why I decided to play a season after school as well.
Q: You were named to the All-Academic Patriot League Team for three straight years as well as being named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll. Could you touch on what those accomplishments mean to you and how you balanced the life of a student-athlete while keeping up with the academic rigor of Lehigh?
JL: For me, I’ve always valued academics just as much as sports, from middle school up until graduating college. It’s something that you can’t fake. You can’t just scramble for an exam in every class you take. For me, it was just about being consistent from the start, beginning with my first fall semester. I just continued up from there and used the resources made available to me, because you realize that the second you take a semester off, your cumulative GPA is going to take a hit. Personally, it was important to be on the honor roll and to get the academic awards just as much as the on-field awards.
Q: Do you see or keep in touch with former Lehigh teammates and coaches of yours?
LJ: Yes, I would say I’m probably one of the more involved alumni. My brother’s a junior (at Lehigh) now, so I’ve been able to make it out to a lot of games the last few seasons. I’m sure I’ll continue to do so while he’s on the roster. Being in New York, a ton of Lehigh soccer alumni are up there, and for friends that are no longer in New York or other places in the country, we’re definitely keeping in touch. At the end of the day, that’s one of the best parts of the Lehigh experience and to be on the soccer team — it’s important to keep up with each other now that we’ve graduated, wherever we are in the country.
Q: How has your Lehigh soccer experience helped shape the person you are?
JL: Lehigh solidified the fact that if you don’t work hard and put the time in in the classroom, on the field and in practices, ultimately you’re not going to get to where you want to be — whether that’s a team goal or a personal goal. I also think that Lehigh in general provides a good social aspect of life on campus, which I think goes a long way in a business, personal and overall life environment.
Q: Could you explain your timeline post-graduation? Did you go on to graduate from Lehigh in June or did you leave early?
MF: I did end up graduating in June. I stayed and finished my degree that whole spring semester, and then as soon as I graduated (maybe two days later), I was in Pittsburgh, and I was playing (for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Soccer Team).
Q: You were drafted 77th overall by the Chicago Fire. How did you end up in Pittsburgh?
MF: The process is a little bit confusing, but it’s a lot like baseball. Basically, there’s the MLS, then below the MLS, there’s the USL Championship, and then below the USL Championship, there’s the USL League One. So there’s three leagues of professional soccer in the United States right now. I was drafted to the Chicago Fire, which is in the top bracket, but they knew I had to finish school, so they basically drafted me knowing that I was likely going to land on a USL roster and they were just going to monitor me. I got a contract in place with Pittsburgh to come up and play here as soon as I finished graduating from Lehigh. So I was in Pittsburgh, basically on trial, before they were willing to offer me a contract, while I was still in school, so it was pretty challenging honestly. There were a couple weeks when I was going back and forth between Pittsburgh and Lehigh. It was definitely a challenge.
Q: Could you touch on your experience making the jump from Division I to professional soccer? What personal growth did you experience during those years?
MF: Yeah, the adjustment from college to professional is definitely a hard one, especially coming from a school like Lehigh — not to knock Lehigh in any way, but being a mid-major school like it is, it’s not an ACC school or another big-time school like that. So in that sense, it was a little tricky. The speed of play is a lot faster, decision making is faster, stuff like that. I would say those are the biggest adjustments. As for personal growth, coming out here has placed me well out of my comfort zone, and I think that’s definitely something that has been a big reason for how I’ve grown as a person during my time here. I would definitely say just stepping out of my comfort zone has been the biggest thing.
Q: How have you been filling your time during the pandemic?
MF: We were one of the first leagues to return to play, so we’ve been back playing for a lot of it. But obviously there was a long period of time when we were on hiatus. I can’t remember how long it was, but I just passed the time like anyone else did.
Q: Were you all at home during that period?
MF: Yeah, they let us all leave, and we were able to go wherever we wanted, so I went down to Florida and basically just hunkered down there.
Q: How did winning a Patriot League Championship as a first-year player impact you as a player and as a leader?
A: I mean, it was great just having the experience of winning itself. It’s something that’s going to teach you a lot. I think when you win it that young, as a freshman, you don’t really appreciate exactly what it is or how hard it is, and that’s sort of something I learned as I went through college. But winning freshman year is definitely something that boosted my confidence and got me hungry to go for more. Unfortunately, we were not able to do that, but (the team) did this past year.
Q: Would you classify that as your favorite team moment?
MF: Oh yes, definitely. Without a doubt.
Q: How about from an individual standpoint? Any personal accomplishments you are particularly proud of?
MF: A night I remember fondly was senior night. We won, I broke the 100-point mark in my individual career, which was a really nice achievement, and I scored a hat trick that night. All around, it was just a really good night for me. Still, though, winning a championship was definitely the best part.