When Stevo Bednarsky first joined the Lehigh men’s soccer program, he set his priorities straight. Regardless of what life would look like for him after college, soccer would be a part of it.
As a fifth-year student and team captain, Bednarksy signed a one-year deal with the New York City Football Club II to play professional soccer.
“If anybody was going to go pro out of his class or any of my other teammates, it was going to be him,” junior forward Dominic Flowers said. “He just had a certain professionalism about him.”
NYCFC II is a new club launching for the first time this year. The team plays Major League Soccer Next Pro, which is in the third-tier of the U.S. soccer league system and is a feeder league into Major League Soccer.
As a New Jersey native, Bednarsky has always played his sport close to home. He said he was willing to travel any distance if it meant playing on the professional level, but being near his family makes this particular opportunity more special.
“I know that not many people get to say they can chase their dream which they have been doing since they were a kid,” Bednarksy said. “I get to play soccer, man, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Assistant head coach Ryan Hess said that upon hearing Bednarky’s long-term soccer intentions, the coaching staff strove to further challenge him.
Professional aspirations are often common among players, but Bednarsky’s determination is what set him apart from those who don’t continue on, according to Hess.
“A lot of the players that come into the program have this pipe dream, but it takes time to develop and cultivate that,” Hess said. “(Bednarsky) kept his head down and worked hard the entire way through.”
During his collegiate career, Bednarksy became the fifth Lehigh soccer player to be a four-time All-League honoree and the first player to accomplish this feat since Doug Cusick in 2003.
Bednarksy is the 18th player of the program to advance to the professional league after Mark Forrest, the latest player to precede him in signing a contract in 2019.
Bednarsky had a notable junior year performance, helping lead the Mountain Hawks to their third Patriot League Tournament title in program history and making the All-Patriot League Tournament team.
As a senior, he was named a candidate for the Senior CLASS (community, classroom, character, and competition) Award, Preseason Patriot League Midfielder of the Year, Patriot League Academic Honor Roll and was a Preseason All-Patriot League selection.
To close his final season, Bednarksy earned his last accolade as a Third Team All-Atlantic Region selection.
Bednarksy has started in all 73 appearances throughout his five years at Lehigh and is just the fourth three-time captain in the history of Lehigh men’s soccer.
Hess said that entrusting Bednarsky with this consecutive honor was a unanimous decision for both the coaching staff and his teammates.
“You could see from day one not only that he had the soccer quality, but an innate sense of leadership,” Hess said.
According to Flowers, Bednarsky has gained the team’s respect by ensuring that every player on the team – not limited to his closest friends – felt his presence and could relate to him.
Without Bednarsky at the forefront of the Mountain Hawks next season, Hess and Flowers said the team will have to adapt.
Hess said the team looks to diffuse some of the responsibility by creating a more committee-based leadership role and is excited to see how some of the other players grow.
Flowers said though filling Bednarksy’s role will be difficult since he has elevated the standards of Lehigh soccer so greatly, he hopes the team’s collective effort to lead can aim to compare.
As his Lehigh soccer career comes to a close, Bednarsky said he credits his success to his family, teammates and coaches, who stood out as his biggest supporters.
“I can’t speak of any other guys I would want to be with or any other staff,” Bednarksy said. “The campus itself and the rest of the people at Lehigh is such a tight-knit community.”
Hess and Flowers said they both agree that the men’s soccer program has only benefited from Bednarksy’s remarkable leadership, which will serve as an inspiration for the rest of the team and the program overall going forward.
“If you’re not following what Stevo did, or at least trying to emulate it in some sort of way, then I don’t know what you’re doing,” Flowers said.
NYCFC II will travel to Toronto on Sunday to play Toronto FC II at 1 p.m.