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Scoring Sensation

Back from cancer and ready to break a school record

River Seybolt, a junior forward on the The Sage Colleges men’s soccer team, will break a school scoring record with his next goal. Seybolt returned to Sage after recovering from testicular cancer. / The Sage Colleges photo

Surgery wasn't the worst part. Neither was the recovery. It was the chemo.

“I didn't want to do it. But my dad told me, ‘If it comes back, it could be worse.’”

River Seybolt's father knew what he was talking about: His testicular cancer had hit four years earlier, when he was 41. River's diagnosis came at 21.

That was a year ago, following a season in which the sophomore men’s soccer player at The Sage Colleges scored 15 goals in 20 games. This year, he has already found the back of the net 11 times in 11 contests.

His next goal will set a program career record before he even begins his senior season.

“Getting back so quick was about not allowing (the cancer) to keep me home on the couch," he says. “I didn't want to make an excuse as to why I couldn't play. I didn't want a break. That wasn't going to make me feel good. Getting back to where I was is what was going to make me feel better.”

Seybolt discovered what doctors would later call a testicular mass as he was preparing to return to school after spending Thanksgiving break at home in Long Island, New York. “I was in shock," he says. “I didn't really know how to react.”

Five days later, Seybolt underwent surgery to remove the testicle. He missed the end of the fall semester and didn't return to class until undergoing intense chemotherapy in January. The first week of treatments lasted more than five hours a day. In addition to his dad and girlfriend, Seybolt's teammate James Fitzpatrick was by his side during the sessions.

“Without them, I couldn't get by,” says Seybolt, a physical education major. He also credited men’s soccer coach Keith Simons for standing by him: “He had my back the entire way. Anything I needed, he was going to do.”

“We spend a lot of time preaching family and team culture,” Simons says. “The guys were ready to step up to the plate to support him.”

When Seybolt returned to the Division III campus just outside Albany, New York, he donned a surgical mask to protect his depleted immune system because even a simple conversation could have gotten him sick. Yet by the time training for the spring season began, he was feeling better — and, in fact, scored in both of Sage’s games.

It’s the next goal, though, that will put the cancer survivor in the school record books.

 “It's not a good thing that happened,” he says, “but I think I do pretty well with taking a negative and using it as fuel and motivation.”

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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