Keith Shimada / Special to the Home News
Friday, Jan. 9, 2009 | 7:35 p.m.
More than 100 friends, family members and former players of Victor Arbelaez, the late Bishop Gorman soccer coach, gathered Friday to witness the dedication of the school's new soccer field named in his honor.
Arbelaez coached both the boys and girls soccer teams at Gorman from 1985 until he passed away in October 2007, amassing a 371-31-8 record and 12 state titles -- six with each gender. He died after collapsing at a Gorman practice following an extended bout with cancer.
"He gave everything he had to this school, this program," said Victor "Boomer" Arbelaez, Victor Arbelaez's son who played for his father at Gorman from 1996-1999. "We tried to contact a lot of the alumni to come today because I know my father had an impact in their lives. It's great to see everybody here."
The new soccer field, which will host all of Gorman's boys' and girls' soccer games and practices beginning next school year, is located directly west of the campus' main building. Grass for the field was recently laid and a track surrounding the field is soon to be completed.
But a large wall bearing the field's official name, "Victor Park," was already in place and served as the backdrop for a number of guest speakers during the dedication.
Nick Arbelaez, Victor Arbelaez's oldest son who took over as coach of the Gorman boys' team for his ailing father two years ago, said he was pleased with the field's name.
"I think 'Victor Park' really fits," Nick Arbelaez said. "It's all part of victory. It's everything he represented. One of my dad's favorite soccer stadiums was Wembley Stadium (in England), and that's named after an individual. Having that one name and then 'Park' after it is really special."
Jeanne Hamrick, Gorman's director of advancement, began the dedication by introducing Tony Allotta, who served as Arbelaez's assistant at Gorman from 1990-2000. Allotta, who had two sons play for Arbelaez, spoke of the former coach's work ethic.
"He'd make his players work so hard," Allotta said. "One of the things I remember is if he asked the boys to run up a hill, he would run with them and beat everybody. He said, 'If I can do it, you can do it.'"
One of Arbelaez's former players, Samantha Cashman, gave the official dedication. Cashman graduated from Gorman in 2007 and is a starting defender at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
"Vic, it's hard to explain how amazing he was and how he impacted you, even if you just met him for a second," Cashman said. "I could only try to put it into words."
Cashman's family volunteered funding for the soccer field when plans for Gorman's new campus, which opened in the fall of 2007, were being made.
Denise Cashman, Samantha Cashman's mother, said it was a "no-brainer" to name the field after Arbelaez.
"Gorman soccer is Victor and Victor is Gorman soccer," said Denise Cashman, who graduated from Gorman in 1978. "I remember before he left us he pulled me to the side at an alumni game and asked, 'What will they name the field?' I wasn't supposed to say anything, but he knew. I wish he could be here today."
Also speaking at the dedication was the school's chaplain, Rev. Edward Wagner, who sprinkled holy water on the fresh grass.
"When (Arbelaez) died last year, we came out here with the soccer teams and prayed on this field," Wagner said. "It was just dirt and rock then, and we were praying for the day we would get here and honor Victor by being on this field."
Gorman girls soccer coach Lora Feely, who played for Arbelaez and graduated from Gorman in 1998, said she was happy the Gaels finally had their own field on campus.
"We've waited a really long time for this," Feely said. "I think when I was playing here, we had a different field we had to commute to every year. So it's nice to be official and have a home field."
Also in attendance was the entire girls soccer team, which walked to the new field after holding a brief practice in the football stadium.
Senior goalkeeper Alex Holland, who played for Victor Arbelaez as an underclassman, said her former coach always wanted the team to train on a natural grass field.
"At the old Gorman campus, we had a field in back where all our sports practiced," Holland said. "It was some yellow grass, but mostly dirt. He always wanted a place like this for us to train. I think it would bring tears to his eyes if he saw this. He would be in awe."
Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].