The heart of Haddonfield boys soccer

Seniors Tommy Mollis and Cole Roddy provide talent, leadership and experience for the Bulldawgs.

Tommy Mollis gains control of a loose ball during Haddonfield’s game last Tuesday against Triton. Mollis is coming off a 2018 season where he tallied 23 points for Haddonfield and was named first team All-South Jersey at midfielder.

Senior Tommy Mollis and Cole Roddy were just named two of Haddonfield boys soccer’s captains this season, but they’ve been leaders for the program since the first time they pulled on a jersey.

“Coach Nixon always preaches leadership,” Roddy said.  “Even as we were coming up through the program, we were always taught that the older guys and the younger guys have to take responsibility.”

Mollis and Roddy entered the 2019 season as a formidable duo in the Haddonfield lineup. Mollis is coming off a season where he tallied 11 goals and 12 assists as the Bulldawgs’ center midfielder, while Roddy has established himself as Haddonfield’s leader on defense, using his speed and instincts to clear balls out of the the Bulldawgs’ end of the field.

Beyond their contributions on the field, however, head coach Ryan Nixon believes the leadership of Mollis, Roddy and the team’s other seniors is crucial to the program’s success in 2019.

“They’re really trying to take the younger guys under their wing,” Nixon said. “They’re doing a really nice job of that.”

Last year, Mollis established himself as a top-tier player in South Jersey. Starting at center midfield at the varsity level for the first time, Mollis took advantage of the opportunity and was a strong contributor on both sides of the ball. His efforts earned him a first team All-South Jersey selection.

“After last year, starting there, I’m a lot more comfortable in that role now,” Mollis said. “I feel like that’s more my position to play.”

While Mollis has already been honored as one of South Jersey’s top players, Nixon believes Roddy could join him this year as an All-South Jersey player with his ability to keep opponents from getting quality scoring chances on the net.

The biggest change in Roddy’s role this year is how he’s become a more vocal leader on the back line.

Cole Roddy strikes the ball on a penalty kick during Haddonfield’s game last week against Triton. Roddy is the vocal leader of Haddonfield’s young defense in 2019.

“I think a lot of the younger guys are starting to pick it up as far as understanding their positioning,” Roddy said. “I just try my best to make sure we’re organized and in the right position to help keep goals out of the net.”

While acknowledging how Mollis and Roddy are two of Haddonfield’s most talented players, Nixon added the pair’s work ethic may be what sticks out more than anything, calling both players the “heart and soul” of the Bulldawgs’ lineup.

The pair’s heart and work ethic could be seen in what was a disappointing opening game last Tuesday against Triton. The Bulldawgs fell, 5-2, after a series of defensive miscues allowed the Mustangs to pull away early and lead nearly the entire game by multiple goals.

Despite the disappointing outcome, Mollis and Roddy played the entire 80 minutes as if it were overtime of a playoff game. One example came early in the game. With Haddonfield down 2-0, Mollis muscled his way past multiple Triton defenders and got the ball into the box before being tackled, earning Haddonfield a penalty kick. Roddy would score on the penalty kick for the Bulldawgs’ first goal.

Later, with Haddonfield down, 5-2 and the outcome decided, Roddy showed why it’s important to continue competing until the final whistle. On one play in the offensive end, he dribbled his way past multiple Mustang defenders and fired a shot that deflected behind the Triton goal, earning Haddonfield a corner kick.

Neither play made a difference in the outcome of the game, but it was an example of both players’ heart and it didn’t go unnoticed by Nixon, who said Mollis and Roddy personify Haddonfield’s philosophy of playing 100 percent, even when the team is down.

“One of the really positive things about this team and over the last couple years is I’ve been really fortunate and blessed to have kids who never quit,” Nixon said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is.”

It also doesn’t matter what outsiders think of Haddonfield’s performance in the season’s opening game. Mollis and Roddy recall how Haddonfield also had a lopsided loss, 6-2, loss against Sterling early in the 2018 season. The Bulldawgs went on to win their next four games in a row and finished the year with a 15-7 record and a trip to the semifinals of the South Jersey Group 2 playoffs.

“We don’t really listen to the expectations coming from the newspapers and stuff like that,” Mollis said. “We set our own expectations.”

“We always have the same expectations,” Roddy added about the team’s goals. “Every game we’re going to come out and compete.”