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MPH boys soccer coach Don Ridall gets 500th career win

Veteran coaches often brush off compliments about reaching career-victory milestones, but Manlius Pebble Hill boys soccer coach Don Ridall confessed Monday that he was going to take a little time to savor his 500th win.

 “I’d be lying if I said this didn’t mean anything,” Ridall said after MPH downed Bishop Ludden 6-2 on Ludden’s pitch. “It is special. There were a lot of parents and former players at the game, and I’ve received just a ton of (text) messages since it ended. I think I’ll be busy pretty tonight answering them.”

Ridall also received a cake and a large sign celebrating the benchmark. Despite being asked to take the sign home, he insisted it be displayed at MPH.

“I told them this is for everyone to share,” said Ridall, who has coached the Trojans for 36 seasons, most of it with an ever-present smile and quick-to-joke manner.

In that time, he has won two state titles (2000, ¤’01) and six Section III championships, including last year when the title game pushed Ridall to 499 wins. There is only one coach in Section III soccer with more wins, Mount Markham coach Charlie Engle, who entered the week with 597 victories.

Among the special visitors at MPH’s game Monday was Luke McKenney, who was on Ridall’s first team in 1976, once served as an assistant coach. He has made a habit of showing up for contests when Ridall won his 100th, 200th, 300th, 400th and now 500th games.

“Luke was on that first team when we went 1-8-1,” Ridall said. “We went 7-4 the second year and have been building on that ever since. I think we’ve built a pretty good tradition here that the kids respond to. We’ve been pretty consistent. But it’s not all about winning. It’s about learning the life-long skills that we’re always talking about in sports.”

As for his latest victory, Ridall said what pleased him the most was the Trojans’ balanced scoring. Richie Medina led the way with two goals, while Gerrit Church, Soloman Ochieng, Duncan Morrison and Zain Nizam each found the net once. MPH took control early, outscoring the Gaelic Knights 4-0 in the first half.

“The best part about the win is that we had five different players score goals,” said Ridall, whose team improved to 1-1 overall and 1-0 in OHSL Patriot play. “After losing 13 seniors, we’re a young team, so we’re still learning and developing. No one has any definitive roles, yet.”

Ridall added that he will have little time to rest on his latest laurel as MPH has two more games this week. Next up is rival Faith Heritage, which just so happened to surrender Ridall’s 400th victory in 2003.