Filippo Censini ’24 sets his barber kit among the blades of grass surrounding Bryant’s pond. Reaching down, he pauses over the kit’s clip guards before selecting one and attaching it to a razor. In front of him sits soccer teammate Javier Gonzalez ’24 who’s wearing a hairdressing cape. As Censini glides the razor past Gonzalez’s ear, the razor’s hum melds with campus’s other Friday afternoon sounds of student chatter and rustling leaves.
Cutting his teammates' hair is a regular occurrence for Censini. Booking up to eight half-hour appointments each week, Censini provides fellow soccer players with fades and mullets while they sit in a makeshift barber chair and gaze out at the water.
“I learned to cut hair two years ago at my previous college,” says Censini, an international student from Italy who’s pursuing a Master of Science in Business Analytics.
As Censini and Gonzalez chat, two more teammates drop by and settle into nearby Adirondack chairs while they wait for their turns. Since practices and competitions call for full concentration, getting haircuts is a way for teammates to bond when they’re not on the field.
“If you spend time in the locker room there’s more people, so it’s not just a one-on-one conversation. When Filippo cuts your hair, it’s just you and him for 30 minutes, so you’re able to learn more from each other,” says Inigo Villaldea ’24, a Sociology major from Spain.
The men’s soccer team recently broke the program’s overall D1 win record, and — for the first time in program history — entered the NCAA Top 25. Prior to last Sunday’s eleventh win, the most victories the team had in an 18-game season was nine. Head Coach Ruben Resendes says taking things one day at a time has been instrumental to the team’s success.
“Right now, we lead the country in goals against average — meaning we’ve given up the least number of goals of any team in the country,” says Resendes, noting that the United States has 211 Division I men’s soccer teams. “The team’s camaraderie and chemistry have been positive since the beginning of the season and speaks to the kind of people we have in our program.”
He says the ultimate goal is to win the conference championship and play in the NCAA tournament.
To get to where they are today, practices include discussing game tactics, watching film on a previous game or upcoming opponent, and training for 60 to 90 minutes. Resendes notes that while 11 players are allowed on the field at one time, there are 50 players on the team; the large roster gives younger men the opportunity to develop within the program. With approximately 20 new players and a 17-day preseason, the team knew the games would become more challenging as they progressed throughout the fall.
“We’ve dropped a couple of games in conference,” Resendes says. “One of the things we’re talking about is approaching the game with bravery instead of fear and thinking about what could go wrong.”
Bulldogs harnessed that mentality last Sunday when they played New Jersey Institute of Technology — currently ranked third best team in the America East Conference — and beat them 5-0.
Back at the campus pond, Censini wraps up Gonzalez’s haircut and recalls how he started soccer at four years old and fell in love with the sport. Meanwhile, Gonzalez — who’s from Spain — notes that he started playing since his dad loves the sport, and Villaldea adds that friends got him into soccer.
“The fact that it’s a group sport, you make a lot of friends,” Censini says. “Plus, there’s a high level of skill required that makes it interesting because you want to learn and get better.”
Gonzalez, who’s pursuing a Master of Science in Healthcare Informatics, adds that soccer was his opportunity to study in America. The experience has enabled him to meet new people — including his five roommates (and teammates) who come from Colombia, Denmark, England, Italy, and the United States.
“Soccer teaches you a lot of life lessons and gives you a lot of values. With a team, you grow up a lot; you learn a lot from them every day, and they learn a lot from you,” says Villaldea, who’s next in line for his home game haircut.