Known for his accomplishments on the soccer field, St. John Vianney High School's Steven Bibas is equally adept at deflecting praise that comes his way.
Earlier this month, Bibas was named to the United Soccer Coaches High School All-America Team for the fall 2017 season. He's one of three players from Missouri named to the team. The others are Billy Hency of Rockwood Summit High School who is Bibas' teammate on Sporting St. Louis Howe club team, and Kyle Ruark of the Class 4 state champions, Rockhurst of Kansas City.
"This is not possible without my teammates and coaches who push me to be the best possible player I can be," Bibas stated in a news release from Vianney about the honor.
More to it
Later, in an interview with the Review, he said, "I'm very blessed to receive this honor, but there's so much more than the individual awards to my life."
That includes caring for others and putting them first.
On the field, "I don't play for myself. I play for the team that surrounds me, my coaches, God and my family that has made so many sacrifices for me to play both high school and club," he said.
Bibas inherited his love of soccer from his dad, longtime St. Louis soccer player and coach Ike Bibas. "Unfortunately I didn't get to see him much (at his best), but even going to his over-30 and over-40 games, he was an unbelievable player and I learned a lot from him," Bibas said.
Bibas recalls playing soccer competitively in primary grades for a club team called the Bombers. He also played CYC soccer for a while at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish in south St. Louis County.
He calls soccer his passion and wants to play it as long as possible. "It's a game that keeps you on your toes," he said. "There's never any standing around. You always have to think about the next play ahead. It's a sport where you really have to work at it. I try to live my life working as hard as I can every day, and I thank God for the talent He gave me to be able to play this sport."
Bibas considers himself blessed that his parents enabled him to attend Vianney, not just for the soccer program but also for its faith life and brotherhood. Regarding soccer, he'll remember that his team competed hard in every game, win or lose, "and left it all on the field." This season, the senior forward scored 12 goals and added nine assists for a team-high 33 points. He also had a team-high five game-winning goals. During the Griffins' playoff run, Bibas scored in a 1-0 overtime win against Parkway South in the district semifinals and scored the go-ahead goal against Francis Howell in the state quarterfinals.
The team was serious on the field but also had its share of lighter moments. Bibas recalled a trip to play in Springfield, Mo. It was a bonding experience as players room with different players, he said, laughing as he told of teammates in adjoining rooms being amused at a practical joke that resulted in their thermostat turned to its lowest point and sheets pulled off the bed.
His advice to younger players is to pay attention and refuse to take every day for granted. "You can blink, and your season can be over, just like it was two years ago in our district final game," Bibas said. "You really don't want to have that feeling. You want to work as hard as you can in the off-season and during the season."
Vianney coach Brian Haddock described Bibas as a team leader, a spiritual leader and a family guy. He's "very humble, almost to the point where he's embarrassed to accept all his accolades, which is what makes him special as a person. ... With all our athletic programs, we have some very talented athletes. What sets him apart is his personality."
Even when Bibas has a great year, he still wants to get better, Haddock said, recalling meeting him as a fifth-grader at a soccer camp and thinking, "This kid's got something special."
The All-American award is the first for a Vianney soccer player in about 25 years, Haddock's research shows. The awardees are picked from the all-state selections in each state.
Soccer has grown and produced so much talent throughout the country that the selection is extra special, Haddock said, adding that Bibas will excel in his next steps as a player at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
Replacing a talented player happens, but "there will never be another leader like him," the coach said, noting that Bibas was a rare two-time captain, "a coach when the coaches weren't around."
Vianney has a talented junior class, and Haddock is eager to see who emerges as leaders.
Ten other players from a multi-state central U.S.region were named to the All-Region team, including Nick Randazzo and Jack Edwards from Christian Brothers College High School.
>> Vianney Soccer Prayer
In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Thank you for letting us compete in today's match. Please continue to bless us, our opponents, officials and guest throughout this contest. Please keep all of us safe and help us play to the best of our ability. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
St. John Vianney; Pray for us.
May the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be gloried in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Amen.