Arcadia Magazine Winter 2023: Shooting Stars
Tom DeGeorge and Maria DeGeorge-Kosmin were soccer standouts at Arcadia. Now they’re training the next generation of elite players.
The match between the Archbishop Wood Vikings and the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy Blue Devils in September 2021 was a clash of the titans. Both girls’ varsity soccer teams were conference leaders and champions. The match lived up to the hype, with Archbishop Wood edging out Springside 1-0.
The coaches of those squads were well familiar with their counterparts — they knew each other better than nearly anyone else did, with competitive memories that stretched back their entire lives. So familiar to each other were they that, the night before the match, they had dinner together.
That’s because those coaches are Tom DeGeorge ’04 and Maria DeGeorge-Kosmin ’06, siblings and standout soccer stars at Arcadia.
“Our teams don’t play in the same conference, so I think that takes away any part of it that would make it weird,” said DeGeorge-Kosmin. “It’s really just a lot of fun.”
From the time they started playing club soccer as kids through now, coaching elite high school squads, the two have become fixtures in the Eastern Pennsylvania soccer community.
Instead of a sibling rivalry, they prefer sibling support, both working to make sure that the opportunities they had as young athletes are available for the girls they coach today. That means coaching their kids, their respective high schools, and still coming out to cheer on Arcadia’s soccer teams. Well, most of the time; maybe not during the Sept. 17 Arcadia-Cabrini game, as Tom’s daughter Alyssa DeGeorge is a midfielder on the Cabrini squad. Arcadia won 3-1, with the sole Cabrini goal scored by Alyssa.
“Soccer is a culture Maria and I grew up into,” said DeGeorge. “We’re passing it on to our kids.”
Growing up in a soccer family
Soccer has been in their lives for as long as they can remember. They lived “on a street where there were a lot of kids the same age always playing soccer,” said DeGeorge. Their father, also a soccer coach, helped the pair hone their skills. They went on to play for the Penn Academy club teams, then DeGeorge to Father Judge High School and DeGeorge-Kosmin to Archbishop Wood High School.
It was hard not to be aware of the DeGeorges if you were involved in soccer in Northeast Philadelphia, said Richard Brownell, women’s soccer coach at Arcadia. “I knew of Tom and some of the guys on the junior college team,” he said. That junior college is Manor College, a Jenkintown, Pa. community college where DeGeorge played soccer after high school. He then transferred to Arcadia, joining the men’s soccer program in the Fall 2001.
He immediately made an impact: The team was undefeated that year (and the next), with DeGeorge playing a key role as a high-scoring midfielder. He was named team captain, notching 19 goals with two assists in the 2001-2002 season. In his two years playing, the team won back-to-back conference championships and advanced to the NCAA regional. The 2001-2002 squad ascended to be the 7th-ranked team in the country.
DeGeorge racked up the kudos beyond Arcadia — he was named Pennsylvania Athletic Conference (PAC) player of the year and was first team All-PAC for both years he played for Arcadia, as well as twice being named All-American (Arcadia’s first male athlete to receive honor). In 2012, he was inducted into the Arcadia University Hall of Fame.
“What we did on the field as a team was something really special,” DeGeorge said. “We went from a team that tried to compete in the conference to one that went to the NCAA tournament.” Those team performances also made a difference for Arcadia, he said, because with such success, local high school students took a closer look at Arcadia for both academics and sports rather than moving out of the region to play college soccer.
“Our men’s program became nationally recognized in Tom’s first year, which meant coaches saw the talent we had,” said Shirley Liddle, former Arcadia athletic director. “It was a special time in the sport. We were just in it.”
DeGeorge, she said, was a natural leader, and transferred into the program with more maturity than most college students. She also noted that at over six feet tall, he had a size advantage over many competitors. He wasn’t a brash or boisterous player, but “when the team needed him to be, he was exceptional,” she said.
When it was time for DeGeorge-Kosmin to start looking at colleges, Arcadia was of course in her sightline. “It’s a big decision,” she said. “I had the opportunity to play at some Division 1 schools, but I was always at Tommy’s games, and loved the atmosphere. I wanted to be around good soccer. When I watched the women’s games, there was something about it that I wanted to be a part of.”
DeGeorge-Kosmin joined Arcadia right after high school and quickly made an impact. She was a four-year starting midfielder from 2002 to 2005, and the second player in program history to be named four-time First-Team All-Conference. In her 2002 freshman year, she scored 10 goals and netted 15 assists, which led to her being named the PAC Rookie of the Year.
From 2002 to 2004, the team qualified for the PAC championship. In 2005, she helped the Knights capture PAC Championships. The following season, she received Arcadia’s Most Valuable Senior Award.
DeGeorge-Kosmin held the record for total points in a season until 2013, and her single season assist record stood until 2014. All told, the women’s team had an overall record of 40-30-7 during her time and went to the postseason every year she was on the field. She was inducted into the Arcadia Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016.
“They both made a name for themselves as midfielders,” Brownell said of the siblings. “They weren’t lightning fast off the dribble but very strong on the ball, and you couldn’t get the ball off their feet. They could also hit rockets from anywhere.”
DeGeorge-Kosmin, whom he coached directly, was a “very smart player. She has this very quiet confidence about her,” he said.
That led to what he considers one of the greatest performances he’s ever seen near the end of her collegiate career. Arcadia was down 2-1 with about 12 minutes to go. She was fouled from 35 yards out from the goal and, in her penalty shot, “hit a missile” for a goal and tied the game. She was fouled again with four minutes left, this time 40 yards from the goal. She scored again, and the team went on to win the game, which put them in the championship game, which they won.
“She was a senior and could have just faded away, but she pulled us into the championship,” he said.
Building a life in soccer
After graduating, the DeGeorges stayed close (they live two minutes from each other now). DeGeorge started his own general contracting business, which he still runs. DeGeorge-Kosmin went into a corporate job. But soccer still pulled.
“When you compete your whole life at a good level, it feels like you’re done and it’s time to go to work,” said DeGeorge. He continued to play soccer, but “you still get that void. There’s something missing here.”
DeGeorge-Kosmin felt it too. “I remember driving on the highway and seeing a bus full of high school or college girls going to some sort of athlete game,” she said. “All of the sudden, I realized part of my life was gone.”
DeGeorge started coaching boys’ soccer, then girls as he began coaching his daughters. DeGeorge-Kosmin took on an assistant coaching role at Arcadia on the women’s team, a role she served from 2010 to 2015 with Brownell. DeGeorge-Kosmin and Brownell also coached the Flemington Flames, a club team in New Jersey, from 2013 to 2015. In 2014, they ended up being number one in the country.
These coaching experiences lead the siblings to their respective roles today as coaches at Archbishop Wood Vikings and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy — and more success.
In 2019, the Archbishop Wood girls’ varsity soccer team was semifinalist in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) District 3 class AAA semifinalist. In 2020, they were PIAA District 2 class AA quarterfinalists, and in 2021, they were both PIAA 2 class AA quarterfinalists and Philadelphia Catholic League champions. DeGeorge won coach of the year from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Soccer Hall of Fame, and daughter Alyssa was player of the year. As of press time, Archbishop Wood’s 2022-2023 girls’ soccer varsity team was undefeated and in first place in their conference; DeGeorge’s younger daughter Ava plays for the team.
In 2019, the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy girls varsity soccer team had a perfect 12-0 record in the Inter-Academic League, which is made up of private schools in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, and won the conference championship with a school record 18 consecutive wins. Their 2020 season was disrupted by COVID, but they came back in 2021 to notch another undefeated 12-0 season. As of press time, the team was at the top of their conference standings with a 7-0-1 record.
They both said there’s something special about coaching girls, and not just because they have daughters.
“When you see them compete and you see when they grow, not just on the field with talent, but when they learn something in terms of how to be a better teammate, it really hits you,” said DeGeorge-Kosmin. “These young girls are going to be going off to college, and we try to prepare them to deal with adversity or a teammate they don’t like. It’s a little bit more rewarding than the wins.”
The DeGeorges as coaches are exactly what young athletes need to compete in a healthy way, said Brownell, because they are coaching them in a way that lets them play to the best of their abilities while also remembering that they’re still adolescents. “How do you get kids to compete at a very high level and still let them be kids and not have them be bullies?” he said. The siblings are “affecting an entire region of kids in a super positive way and getting tremendous athletics” at the same time.”
And if their teams do play again, they look forward to the challenge. “Her team is very good. Mine is too,” DeGeorge said with a laugh. “They’re very hard to beat. We haven’t done it yet, but maybe next year.”