Ted Giannacopoulos ’02 has never been one to shy away from a little hard work. That probably explains why Ted will be one of two players from Division III to play in the Umbro National Senior Select All-Star Game on Feb. 11; why he is only the second Eph to be named an all-American at soccer in each of his four seasons; why he was the first freshman at his high school, Belmont Hill (Belmont, Mass.), to make the varsity soccer team as a freshman in 11 years; and why he scored 35 goals and assisted on 33 others ? good for 103 individual points ? over the course of his career at Williams.
But Ted wasn’t always the star athlete. Though he began playing soccer at the tender age of four, it wasn’t until his freshman year of high school that he began to emerge as a great soccer player.
“I was never really good at sports at all until ninth grade. During my eighth grade year and ninth grade year I used to bike a lot ? maybe about 10 miles a day. I did that a lot over the summer particularly and just all of a sudden I became very fast. I picked up a lot of speed and I made my high school varsity team as a freshman, which was a pretty big thing because no freshman had made the team in such a long time.”
Even before his days included 10-mile bike rides, Ted became well-versed in the virtues of hard work thanks to his father. The senior Giannacopoulos played semi-professionally in Greece before coming to the United States, and he always pushed Ted and Ted’s older brother John ? who was a two time all-American in both soccer and hockey at Middlebury ? to be the best that they could be. “My dad got me and my brother into soccer and hockey at a young age,” Ted said. “My father was my greatest influence growing up, he pushed me a lot and he really knows the game of soccer ? he’s really sharp. He can be a bit of a drill sergeant, but he always gets the best out of you.”
After finding his speed as suddenly as he did, Ted honed his craft playing on his high school team, traveling teams and Olympic Development Program (ODP) teams, and also at various soccer camps. Aside from the more traditional training and playing schedules he kept, Ted also benefited from participating in the soccer gatherings that occur nightly in his hometown, Needham, Mass.
“Every night at six o’clock over the summer people would come to the town’s soccer complex to play, and whenever you played there you were playing with people who were better than you so it was always a great challenge and I think that helped my game a lot.”
Though his acrobatic “flip throws” are a crowd-favorite which inspire bated-breath anticipation and wild cheers upon completion, anyone who has seen Ted play knows that the key to his game is his speed and quickness, which make him one of the NESCAC’s most devastating players in one-on-one situations. Few players possess the skill required to break through three opposing players on their own, but Ted does so with ease.
“One-on-one is definitely my greatest strength,” Ted agrees. “That’s really what distinguishes me I guess. I find that on many of my assists I’m the guy that makes the pass to the guy who passes it to the guy who scores, and I think that’s probably because of my strengths as a ball handler.”
Ted has dribbled, passed and shot his way through a brilliant collegiate career, and has been recognized time and time again for his efforts. “Being one of only two players in the country from Div. III to be named to the Umbro All-Star Game was really big, that’s probably the honor that I’m most proud of ? it’s a real honor to be distinguished like that.”
Surprisingly enough, one honor that Ted is less enthusiastic about is having been named an all-American in each of his four seasons. “I tell you the thing about being named an all-American that sort of takes some of the satisfaction away from that distinction is that it’s a really hard honor for me to accept with all my heart when there are other players on our team who absolutely deserved it, guys like Marc Williams [’02] who I felt definitely deserved to be first team all-Americans.”
Despite all his accomplishments on the field and all the accolades his play has garnered, Ted leaves Williams never having brought a national championship to the Purple Valley, and the team’s improbable 4-3 regional semi-final loss to Worcester State, in a game the Ephs dominated for the final 75 minutes of play before penalty kicks sealed their fate, haunts him still.
“The way the season ended was absolutely devastating. Absolutely devastating. I don’t think anyone on the team has really gotten over it yet, I don’t think anyone really believes it happened. Coming after our win over Middlebury [a 5-1 triumph that made Williams NESCAC champions and that Ted considers the highlight of his career], which was a game where everything just came together and everyone on the team played better than I’d ever seen them play, I think we all thought that we’d taken our game up a notch and to lose like that ? it’s going to take a while to get over it.”
Despite a sour final taste of college soccer, Ted recalls his years on the team in the fondest manner possible, and reserves his kindest comments for the other members of his class. “My class was a very special class. Everybody was talented, everybody worked hard, everybody bought into the same idea which comes from this motto we have that’s written on Matt Stoffer’s stone by the athletic facility that says ?run for yourself, run for your mates.’ I really felt my class took that to heart ? we really did run for each other. I can’t say enough good things about them; it’s just a tremendous group.”
What the future holds for Ted remains somewhat unclear. An English major, Ted is unsure whether he will continue playing soccer or whether he is ready to hang up his spikes. “There are going to be a number of MLS scouts, A-League scouts and international scouts at the Umbro National Select game in February, and I’ve got some tryouts lined up for teams in Greece, but I still can’t say what I’m going to do next.”
Whatever Ted decides to pursue after graduation, you can bet that the same work ethic that has brought him to the upper echelon of college soccer will carry him to a life of success.