When Peabody’s Luke Finkelstein took to the field as a little boy for the Peabody Youth Soccer program, the coaches assigned him number five, and he still wears that number when he takes the field as a sophomore center-midfielder for the Wheaton College Lyons soccer team.
When Finkelstein pulls on his jersey these days, his mother doesn’t have to take a needle and thread to his uniform, like she did when he was little and his number five jersey stretched down to his ankles.
Finkelstein picked the Norton school for its athletics and its academics, and the fact that it’s a short drive for his mom Susan, his older sister Mia and his maternal grandmother Toby to hop in the car and see him play college soccer.
Wheaton College’s nickname is the Lyons, yes, the Lyons. Mary Lyons helped establish Wheaton College’s curriculum in 1834, and school named the sports teams in her honor.
“I got a good feel for the school when I checked it out, the coach (Matt Cushing) was great, and it was important that I was close enough to home that my mom and my grandmother could come see me play,” Finkelstein said.
“Coach Cushing recruited me pretty heavily, I clicked with him right away, and I knew he was going to give me a good chance to play, and he believed in me,” Finkelstein said. “Everything just kind of worked out, and it’s been great since I got here.”
Finkelstein’s dad Neil passed away when he was seven years old, and when he was eight, he was diagnosed with OCD, and soccer has been one of the things that has helped him deal with losing his dad, and the disorder.
“I’ve wanted to be a professional soccer player since I was little, I’ve always loved the sport, it helps me burn off steam,” Finkelstein said. “I’m two different people, on the field and off -- I’m ultra-competitive when I’m playing, completely different when I’m not playing.”
Finkelstein went to the Belmont Hill School for his freshman and sophomore years in high school, wrestling and running track, before returning to Peabody Veterans Memorial High School for his junior and senior seasons, his only focus on soccer.
“The highlight of my high school soccer career was beating Danvers in the fall of 2010, my senior year -- they’re our huge rivals,” he said. “That game clinched the NEC championship for us, I scored the winning goal (a 2-0 win) off a free kick.”
“Soccer is such a big part of my life, I loved playing for Peabody in high school and I’m having a great time playing for Wheaton,” Finkelstein said.
He said it was a little easier heading into his sophomore season for the Lyons, not knowing what to expect when he arrived at Wheaton to play soccer as a freshman.
“It’s a completely different game, from high school to college, so much faster, I’m not the biggest guy out there, so I’ve got to be in shape and use my quickness on the field to be successful,” he said.
Last fall the Lyons finished 9-8-1, with Finkelstein chipping in with one goal and nine assists. He was also named to the All-Rookie team his freshman year and named a second team all-star as well. This fall, Wheaton is 3-1 early in September and Finkelstein has chipped in with two assists so far this season.
“We had a winning season last year, but we can, and we want to do much better,” Finkelstein said. “Last year was definitely an off-year for us, we’re returning a strong team and we hope to do much better on the field this year.”
Finkelstein is a psychology major at Wheaton, because he’s fascinated with the brain and how the brain works.
“I’m interested in how the mind works, how people think, why I have my condition (OCD) and how that affects me and other people,” he said. “Soccer is great for me, it’s helped me focus and use my energy in a positive way.”
Even though his calendar is filled up with soccer and schoolwork, Finkelstein enjoys getting back to his home in South Peabody, spending time with his family, listening to his favorite music, and checking out the hot new movies with his friends.
In addition to the Peabody Youth Soccer program, where he started as a sweeper, Finkelstein played for the S. C. Greater Boston Bulls before he headed off to college.
His older sister Mia graduated from Endicott College and works for the Hyatt in Cambridge. Finkelstein said his mom is his rock, his greatest fan and inspiration.
“My mom is 100 percent my biggest inspiration: when my dad passed there was so much on her plate and she handled it all,” Finkelstein said. “My mom always had a positive attitude, she never complained one time about anything, and I took her mannerisms and her thoughts on life and applied them.”
“She would say there’s always somebody that’s got it tougher than you, so no matter what life throws at you, never complain, keep a positive attitude and keep going,” Finkelstein said. “She was my role model when I was younger and she still is today.”