Pearl River senior midfielder Giovanni Galvano earned his place as a leader for the Pirates even before he chose to play for his high school team rather than his academy team, FC Westchester, this fall.
Galvano was arguably the best player in Rockland County as a junior, a playmaker drawing the interest of college recruiters and the double-teams of opponents. The kind of player teammates look to on the field.
"He's an elite player," Pearl River boys soccer coach Damon O'Keefe said. "Division I schools are interested in him. He's an academy player and he came back to play high school soccer. It was great for the program and the community. It shows how much he cares for the guys on the team and the program."
Galvano may be the type of player to inspire teammates, but ask who he looks to and he will point to an 8th grader at Pearl River High School, his brother Francesco, who has leukemia. He said that the way the Pearl River community has supported the Galvanos since Francesco was diagnosed helped make his decision.
"He's an inspiration to a lot of people, especially myself," Galvano said. "He's my inspiration. Being able to play for the community that has been supporting us this whole time brings us a lot of joy."
Francesco Galvano was not able to attend Pearl River Middle School due to his treatment and recovery, but he was back for this fall at the high school with his brothers. Vincenzo Galvano is a sophomore and another of the top players on the Pearl River varsity.
Not that Francesco Galvano's presence wasn't felt. The middle school was packed with students wearing t-shirts in his honor for the first day of school last September. His friend Craig MacDonald had them made and sold them to raise money for the Galvanos.
Among the fundraising events was A Day for Two Families Nov. 27 in the St. Margaret School cafeteria, which was held in support of the Galvano and Tedesco families. Jeanne Tedesco, a mother of three, died from a heart attack at age 51 during the summer of 2011.
After all of that, Giovanni Galvano had to make a decision because of the change in academy schedules that created a conflict with the high school varsity season this year. He had played for FC Westchester.
"I chose playing for Pearl River because there is nothing like representing your community and there is nothing like playing for your school and representing your school," Galvano said.
O'Keefe said before the season that Galvano brings more to the table than his soccer skills.
"He's great. His character is awesome," O'Keefe said. "He respects other people. You'd never know how great he is until you watch him play. He's very passionate about the game, but more passionate about selling it and not letting his ego get in front of him. He's highly unselfish.
"He makes everybody better with his attitude and will."
Galvano is one of the keys for a Pearl River team that is 7-3-1 going into a challenging stretch to end the season. In part due to a previous rainout against Albertus Magnus, the Pirates begin a stretch of five games in seven days 4:15 p.m. Wednesday against Nyack at Nyack College.
Pearl River's full remaining schedule is as follows:
- Oct. 17 vs. Nyack at Nyack College, 4:15 p.m.
- Oct. 18 at home against Albertus Magnus, 4 p.m.
- Oct. 19 at Nanuet, 4 p.m.
- Oct. 22 at home against Rye, 4:30 p.m.
- Oct. 23 at Albertus Magnus, 4 p.m.
Galvano and his family will be featured on MSG Varsity 7 p.m. tonight.