At the end of his freshman year with the Division I University of Memphis soccer program, sophomore goalie Max Lichtenstein decided to transfer. After looking at a few Division I programs, he decided to move to Division III Ithaca College.
Lichtenstein was a standout soccer player as a child, as, by the age of 7, he was playing on a Under 10 team. He then went off to play in an academy run by Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire Soccer Club, where he caught the attention of Division I schools.
Lichtenstein was redshirted by the University of Memphis’ coaching staff due to tendinitis suffered at the beginning of the season, giving him an extra year of eligibility.
When Lichtenstein first started looking at colleges, he said, Memphis caught his eye because they played in the American Athletic Conference and the young coaching staff was trying to create a winning program. During the recruiting process, he was considering playing for the DePaul Blue Demons and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. The coaching staff at Memphis told him he would be competing for starting goalie position with a redshirt junior on the team, which led him to commit.
“I thought I’d have a good opportunity to play as a freshman,” he said. The coaches gave me confidence when I spoke to them — that they wanted me to beat him out coming in.”
Lichtenstein said he realized in the spring that he wouldn’t get much playing time, so he had a meeting with the coaches about his future in the program.
“We mutually agreed that I had the talent to play D1 soccer, it was just a matter of finding the right fit,” he said. “The junior and I were both competing hard, he just had more experience than I did at the time. I considered a few options, with a few of them being D1, but Ithaca was most appealing to me.”
Freshman quarterback Matthew Gross reached out to Lichtenstein to tell him about the college after learning that Lichtenstein was thinking of transferring. Gross and Lichtenstein are friends from home in Boca Raton, Florida, and both went to West Boca Raton Community High School. Gross said he took his official visit to Ithaca College around the same time he heard Lichtenstein decided he wanted to transfer.
“I let him know, knowing how good he is, I knew he’d have a great opportunity to start as soon as he stepped foot on campus,” Gross said. “I know he’d love the environment here, academically I know he’d like it, just all those reasons.”
For the Bombers, Lichtenstein has started in six out of eight games so far this season, playing for more than 500 minutes. He has a .54 goals–allowed average and 23 saves for a .855 save percentage. He currently has a groin injury, causing him to not play in the last two games. Lichtenstein will be returning Sept. 30 when the Blue and Gold take on St. Lawrence University.
Junior defender and captain Sam Factor said that Lichtenstein has become a leader for the Blue and Gold.
“On the field, I have so much trust in him, passing back to his feet or making a save, coming out on corners or whatever it might be,” Factor said. “It is huge for defenders to be able to trust their goalie.”
Lichtenstein has also made everyone else feel comfortable taking chances because they know that he will be there as a calming influence to stop the opposing team from scoring, head coach Kyle Dezotell said.
“He feels super confident when he is in goal, which is the feeling you really want from a goalkeeper,” Dezotell said. “You want a goalkeeper to exude confidence, but certainly not arrogance. You want your team to feel confident knowing that the guy between the pipes has their back and can perform well.”
Dezotell said that Lichtenstein also has good passing skills.
“A lot of our plays actually kind of run through Max, as he’s got very good feet and a very good passing ability, so a lot of our structure and our style of play actually comes from being able to use his feet,” Dezotell said.
Since joining the South Hill squad, Lichtenstein was named on the Liberty League Honor Roll after playing three games and only giving up one goal.
“Personally, it meant a lot because we were winning, and it meant a lot to go 2–0 to start the season, so it meant that just we were bringing winning back to Ithaca soccer,” Lichtenstein said. “For me, it’s not so much about the personal awards, it’s for the team success.”
Lichtenstein said that with all the changes coming to the men’s soccer program, he wanted to partake in that opportunity.
“In the end, with Coach Dezotell coming in, with the new head coach, moving to the Liberty League, with the new conference, I couldn’t pass it up,” Lichtenstein said. “It didn’t matter what level it was. I couldn’t pass it up, the opportunity.”