Danilack brothers team up in Big Green soccer resurgence
A pair of brothers have been crucial in the men’s soccer team’s resurgent 2014 campaign. Co-captain Hugh Danilack ’15 and Matt Danilack ’18 both found soccer at a young age and began playing early in elementary school, eventually joining recreation leagues. As their talent deepened, they moved onto travel teams.
The brothers are on parallel tracks this season. The elder Danilack has scored eight points and the younger brother is right behind with seven, including three goals. Each notched his first collegiate goal within 15 minutes of the other against the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in late September.“I went over and I was so happy for [Hugh] I tackled him to the ground,” Matt Danilack said. “I was thinking that, if he scored his first college goal, then I have to score mine too.”
Both brothers laughed at the memory. It was an oddly appropriate story — Hugh Danilack scored his first-ever college goal after three full seasons with little time, then Matt Danilack puts in his first goal in the fourth collegiate game of his life.
This is indicative of how the brothers came to play collegiate soccer.
Hugh Danilack never went through the formal recruiting process. He was admitted to Dartmouth before the coaches even saw him play. Former head coach Jeff Cook offered Matt a spot in the team’s pre-season training.
“I definitely didn’t really know what I was doing,” Hugh Danilack said. “Matt definitely had a head start on me. I am the oldest in the family, so we were trying to figure things out, and I got into the process a little bit late.”
Matt Danilack’s recruiting process was less hectic. He began being recruited midway through his junior year and has earned a starting position at Dartmouth as a freshman.
The family has an extensive history in college athletics, especially here at Dartmouth. The brothers’ cousins, Tim Scanlon ’12 and Maggie Scanlon ’14, competed for the Big Green in sailing and field hockey. Their aunt, Carol Neville ’74, played field hockey while at the College.
Special to the brothers is their uncle, James Neville ’72, who also played for the Big Green men’s soccer squad.
“We wanted to play sports in college somewhere or another from a pretty young age,” Matt Danilack said. “Just to do it here together at Dartmouth, after our cousins and our uncle, especially has been pretty surreal.”
In Hugh Danilack’s senior year of high school, he played with Matt Danilack and their brother Geoff Danilack, now a Williams College junior, played midfield at the Potomac School in Virginia.
“We played three center midfielders,” Hugh said. “Geoff and Matt were holding, and I was the attacking mid. It was probably one of the best experiences I have had playing soccer, definitely just a lot of fun playing with the both of them.”
Hugh Danilack would then go to Dartmouth, where earned a reputation on the soccer team as a tough and hard-working player — though he saw action in three total games his freshman and sophomore years. His junior year he did not see any time on the field.
This year, however, Hugh Danilack has seen eight points, the second most on the team so far. He’s also a regular on the starting lineup.
Matt Danilack, however, has emerged as a young star on a lineup compromised of mainly seniors. Matt Danilack has scored three goals, the second most of the season.
“Matt is obviously an incredible soccer player, he is making a huge impact as a freshman, and having him out there, playing that well, makes me want to improve myself,” Hugh Danilack said.
The close statistics only begin to describe the competitive nature of the two brothers.
“They both are very competitive with each other, but use it as a way to make each other better,” teammate Brendan Barth ’17 said. “Both of them work extremely hard.”
Both Danilacks said they felt that having a brother on the team has helped both them and the team develop and succeed this year.
“I think a lot of the feedback that Matt has given me has been really helpful to me, as a player and as a captain,” Hugh Danilack said. “Matt has been able to provide more information to me, more critical feedback, more positive feedback in an honest dialogue. Having that relationship with him obviously allows that to happen.”
Matt Danilack said that the relationship benefits the younger players on the team.
“Some things that he tells me I can relay on to the other guys,” he said. “That extra level of communication has been helpful — it improves the team dynamic. We have a really great locker room this year, which is part of the reason we are doing so well.”
Though the team can benefit from these extra layers of communication and support, it is not always so easy for the brothers to manage the relationship in a team setting.
“There are some challenges, but I would say there are by far more good things about it,” Hugh Danilack said. “Especially as a captain, it can be hard sometimes to balance treating him as another player and treating him as my brother.”
As the Big Green come down the home stretch and push for the Ivy League title and the NCAA Tournament, look for these two brothers’ competitive drive to fuel the team, especially when it takes the field on Saturday against Columbia University.