Matt Chastonay has played soccer ever since he can remember. He’s gained valuable experience and overcame challenges, and it’s paying off now for the St. Mary’s captain in serving as an offensive force for his team.
Playing forward in the recent Saint Louis University High School Varsity Soccer Tournament, for example, he showed good speed and positioning, reacting quickly to contested balls and corner kicks. Several times he leaped to head the ball upfield or toward the goal.
It wasn’t always so easy for him. As a freshman, he played on the varsity team but “I was still smaller than everyone,” he recalled. “I was playing against seniors, and it was hard. When I did get a chance to play in the games I was kind of intimidated by them because everyone was older and bigger than me.”
The frustration was made easier for him to handle through prayer, he noted.
Chastonay said St. Mary’s improvement this season comes in part from following Coach Charlie Clark’s system, a desire to win more and a higher talent level. It’s paid off with a 10-3-1 record as of Oct. 9. A confident group, they worked hard over the summer and are comfortable and cohesive since so many of the seniors have played with each other since freshman year.
Chastonay thanks his parents for getting him involved in soccer at a young age. He played at his parish and school, St. Simon the Apostle in south St. Louis County, and has played for several select teams, in addition to the high school team.
Soccer is fun, he said. “I get to play with my teammates, and I like my coaches and learning new things. I feel like I’m a pretty coachable person. I just listen to them” and follow through, he said.
Chastonay followed his dad’s footsteps to St. Mary’s. The alum brought his son along to events at St. Mary’s, and when it came time to visit high schools Chastonay felt a brotherhood at the archdiocesan school. “It was the best fit for me, a smaller school than some of the others,” he said. “And I’m blessed that I could play soccer. That just came along with it.”
He’s also impressed with the St. Mary’s alumni he meets and how dedicated and positive they are about the school.
He sees his style in soccer as one that puts pressure on defenders when they have the ball. Though he has 11 goals this season, he’s also a playmaker. “I like getting my teammates involved, getting them the ball,” said Chastonay, who also has six assists.
He’s a member of the leadership program at St. Mary’s. On the soccer field, he uses those skills, building confidence in younger players. “When they make a mistake, you don’t yell at them or get on them about it, you just tell them it’s alright, get it next time,” he said. “Or, in a nice way, tell them how to fix it.”
His coach, Clark, sees him developing the leadership skills. Because of Chastonay’s natural quietness, he’s had to overcome it as a captain, “and he’s been great,” Clark said. “He has not disappointed at all.
“He’s sort of what I’d call a ‘thinking man’s player,’ very technical,” he said.
Chastonay also shows a quiet, spiritual side as well, Clark said. “I never hear him speak bad about other people.”
After every game this season, Clark has been approached by opposing coaches who commented that “our #14 (Chastonay) is our best player. Every single team that we’ve played, they’ve mentioned what a good job he’s done and how he stands out among other good players.”
Chastonay appreciates being at a Catholic school, and sees the importance of the team praying the Hail Mary before and after games. And he’s seen the calming influence of relying on prayer, he said.
He looks up to his dad, Dennis Chastonay, and grandfather, John Chastonay. His dad coached him and his grandfather is at all his games. They’ve taught him a lot about soccer “and about becoming a man. They taught me what it takes, what my responsibilities are,” he said.