Happy warrior: UNCG Soccer’s Marco Milanese

Posted on April 04, 2023

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“YOU WILL HAVE TO BE AN EXAMPLE, even when you don’t want to be,” explains Marco Milanese ’22. “Being a captain means you’re going to have to expose yourself.”

But being a leader is a role that feels natural for Milanese, who comes from Isenia, Italy, near Naples.

“I started when I was very young,” he recalls. “When I was 13 or 14, I used to play with 17- or 18-year-old guys. I grew up a lot, thanks to this experience.”

Milanese was one of the Spartans’ 2022 captains, an on-field leader who speaks for the team and leads during games. “For me, being a leader is both a responsibility and a pleasure.”

Coach Chris Rich agrees. “He was our emotional leader and he held everybody accountable. He is a home-run gem of a human being.”

Milanese studied in Akron, Ohio, before joining the Spartans. After his arrival, he saw the team band together by facing difficult challenges.

I met a lot of guys who are going to be my friends for the rest of my life.

“I think the key moment for this group was spring 2022,” says Milanese. “We only had 13 players and we had a very tough schedule.” That time turned a group of strong individuals into a true team.

“When we came back for the fall, I had this conversation with the coaches. I said, ‘I have a good feeling with this team because we’ve practiced for just one week, but we look like we’ve been together for three months.’”

During the season, he had the chance to learn from past leaders. “Almost every road trip, one or two alumni spoke to us and made us believe we could compete for a national championship.”

After earning his degree, Milanese began a professional career with Omaha Union in early 2023. This history-making season means that he could leave with no regrets.

“You could see the community getting closer to us. It makes me feel like we did something good to support the University.”

By Mercer Bufter, ’11 MA
Photograph by Carlos Morales