Concord-Carlisle goalie makes triumphant return after cancer scare
David Frenkil looks uncomfortable, and it’s not just because he has a sore back.
The keeper for the Concord-Carlisle High boy’s soccer team can’t keep still, pacing behind the goal on Wednesday as his teammates practiced out in front. Frenkil had been involved in a collision during Tuesday’s game against Boston Latin, and he was given the day off to ice and stretch his back.
However, he has spent more than enough time on the sideline over the last year.
He does not want to sit out anymore.
And like Simon Shulman, a first-year starting goalie for defending Division 1 state champion Needham High, and Curren Murphy, who is stepping into the role for Wayland, the defending Division 3 state champs, Frenkil is embracing a similar challenge at Concord-Carlisle, the reigning titlist in Division 2.
For Frenkil to once again return to the pitch is a celebration in itself.
“The fact that I can play again is unbelievable,” Frenkil said, “to be here for my senior year and finally play with all the kids I’ve been growing up with.”
Born in Guatemala City, he was adopted by Jerry and Cynthia Frenkil when he was 6 months old. As he grew, he became friendly with neighbors David and Sylvia Cullington. They became important figures in his life.
The summer before Frenkil’s bar mitzvah in 2010, David Cullington died of cancer. Each year since, during Concord-Carlisle’s Kicks for Cancer fund-raising jamboree, Frenkil proudly has worn the name “Cullington’’ from shoulder blade to shoulder blade on the back of his game shirt.
He never could have imagined what was ahead. Six months before wearing the Cullington jersey for the first time, Frenkil noticed a bump on the back of his left thigh. He chalked it up to a muscle knot; there was little discomfort. A year and a half passed.
In August 2014, the pain manifested during a soccer camp at Endicott College. A trainer had no clue what it was; neither did Frenkil’s physical therapist; maybe it was a torn hamstring.
But the pain surfacing after 18 months had Frenkil concerned, and so was Concord-Carlisle coach Ray Pavlik, who recommended him to a physician in Concord.
He had a biopsy and stayed on the sidelines at the annual Kicks for Cancer event, which has raised roughly $150,000 for cancer research since 2007.
Three days later, his parents picked him up from school and took him to Boston Children’s Hospital, where they received the diagnosis: an encapsulated mixoid liposarcoma tumor.
“The way things were before that, with all the doctors I was seeing and all the different trainers and everything, it just kept going downhill,” Frenkil recalled. “I was sort of expecting it.”
He went through five weeks of radiation. The golf-ball-size cancerous tumor was reduced to the size of a grape. On Dec. 19, doctors removed the mass.
Family, friends, and teammates came to his bedside as Frenkil learned to walk again.
“That was probably the one thing that meant most to me throughout the whole thing. It’s hard to describe it. It meant a lot,” he said.
Frenkil went through four months of therapy before returning to soccer, only to sit until July with a concussion he suffered three games into his spring campaign with the FC Bolts.
But to be back on the pitch, playing with lifelong friends, means everything to the 18-year-old, who wants to embrace his senior year for all it’s worth.
“This year I’ve definitely been looking forward to, and definitely one year that means more to me than maybe any other year I’ve played in soccer,” said Frenkil, who is free of cancer but has checkups every three months. “It’s something to really cherish and remember.”
Shulman’s return has been defined by redemption. He started the first six games last fall during Needham’s run to the Division 1 title before Alex Raskind, a taller and more physical player, stepped in at midseason.
“That obviously lit a fire under me,” Shulman said.
His effortless goaltending technique had won him the starting job initially, so he began working on his tenacity. He attended Tony DiCicco’s SoccerPlus goalkeeping camp at Northfield Mount Hermon for the fourth straight summer.
“I did whatever I could to make sure it wasn’t just the idea that I should be starting,” the 5-foot-10, 150-pound senior said, “but that I will be starting and playing every single game.”
Murphy has something to prove, too, as the latest in a long line of talented keepers in Wayland. Two seniors, Max Marks and Robert Yuan, divided the workload last fall, but it appears only the 5-foot-7, 165-pound junior will be given the responsibility this season.
“It’s going to be hard,” Murphy said. “Junior year, outside of sports, you have schoolwork and extracurriculars which make it a challenge to balance soccer in the equation.”
Sensing the opportunity, Murphy spent the summer learning how to break some poor technical habits. His greatest teacher was YouTube, where be broke down film of goalkeepers.
The Warriors are often blessed with talented keepers, though Murphy already has an idea of how to set the tone on and off the field.
“Just showing up 15 minutes before practice – first there, last to leave, giving everything you’ve got – I think that kind of commitment and that kind of effort wins state titles,” Murphy said. “It’s not necessarily how naturally talented you are; it’s about the team.”
As for Frenkil, this year will probably be his last playing competitive soccer. College soccer was an ambition his freshman year, but his ambitions have changed. He is contemplating studying something in the arts, perhaps photography.
“In terms of cancer, not all are fortunate enough to have a cure or the resources to get the best care. I feel fortunate to have had the access to that.
“I feel refreshed and ready to take a new step in my life. Hopefully it’ll be a fresh, clean step
with nothing to worry about.”
Boys’ soccer players to watch
► Bobby Hurstak, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional: The three-year starter is one of the state’s best keepers. After posting an 0.44 goals against average as a sophomore, Hurstak added eight shutouts last season.
► Don Igo, Needham: The defending Division 1 state champs always seem to have an ace in the hole, and this fall seems no different. The senior returns as perhaps the Bay State Conference’s most feared striker after 15 goals and 5 assists last fall.
► Matheus Moreira, Framingham: There may be no more seasoned midfielder in the Bay State Conference this season. Last fall, he help the Flyers limit foes to 0.50 goals per game.
► Ethan Stavisky, Wayland: Teams will have to keep an eye on the senior forward, who has developed into a lethal force around the box for the defending Division 3 state champs. He had a hat trick in the Warriors’ opening game with Newton South.
► Jake Warren, Medway: The Tri-Valley League MVP a year ago, after finishing his junior season with 13 goals and 16 assists, Warren will key the Mustangs’ offense again this fall.