Experience increases goalie’s confidence
It has been a year of highs and lows four games into this young season for the Rutgers men’s soccer team, with the Scarlet Knights stressing the need for consistency.
While the team as a whole has some work to do in that department, sophomore goalkeeper David Greczek has proven to be the exception.
For the second year running, Greczek leads his conference in saves (20) and is also leading the Big Ten in saves per game, averaging five per contest.
Although he ranks towards the bottom in goals against average, it’s hard to shoulder the blame on him.
Greczek displayed his best qualities against Syracuse last Thursday, denying the Orange on multiple occasions with some eye-catching saves.
His current form suggests his Second Team All-American Athletic Conference selection last season was no fluke and gives head coach Dan Donigan one less thing to worry about.
“[Greczek’s] playing with an unbelievable confidence, and that gets instilled within the players in front of him and in the coaching staff,” Donigan said. “He’s raised above another level, even based off last year … but he just keeps getting better, which is a feather in his cap. And it’s nice to have him in between the pipes.”
Last season, Greczek was one of five goalkeepers on Rutgers’ roster competing for the starting job, three of which were also freshmen.
After winning the job as first choice last season, only Greczek and sophomore Mitchell Walier remained on this year’s roster.
With only two goalies, the practice dimensions differ with both keepers trying to compete for one starting job, while also attempting to maintain their health.
“It’s been a huge adjustment,” Greczek said. “Drills are based differently from last year. Repetition is much shorter but quicker. It’s always good to have two more goalies, but you know, this year it’s only two. And if one gets hurt then it’s not good for the team, so got to stay healthy.”
For Walier, Greczek may be his competition, but he said the two are close and help push one another to make the team and themselves as good as they can be.
“If he’s having a tough time getting mentally right, I’m usually the right guy to know what to say,” Walier said. “I’ve been in his position my whole life, so I know when we need to calm down and when we need to focus and when we need to really turn it up and get angry at our opponent.”
After a successful freshman season, Greczek spent the offseason playing in the USL Premier Development League, the fourth tier in American soccer, with Jersey Express, a team based in Newark, New Jersey.
But during Jersey Express’ run to the final four in the PDL, Greczek suffered an injury that forced him out for six weeks.
Instead of setting him back, Greczek said the injury made him strive to be stronger and better than before.
Entering Big Ten season play this Friday against Wisconsin, it’s safe to say the Fairfield, New Jersey, native is playing the best he ever has.
“I definitely feel more comfortable, but as a goalie, the most important thing is to get game experience,” he said. “And goalies can play until they’re 42 years old, so we have a longer career than field players. So the more games you get in at a younger age really just makes you better in the long run. Obviously, last year, it was great that I got the experience, and now this year, I just got to keep playing and being consistent and keep working.”
At 6-foot-2, Greczek is at a large enough size to perhaps one day take a shot at the professional leagues, if he continues to progress.
But for now, Greczek is taking it one step at a time, just as he did early on his career when he first started playing goalkeeper.
“A long time ago, when I was like eight years old, the goalie never showed up to practice, so I hopped in. And then it just stuck with me,” Greczek said. “…I’m not [making the pros] yet, and [I’ve] just got to keep working and reach that bar.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s soccer team, follow @SeanStewartRU and @TargumSports on Twitter.