Goalkeepers rank in spite of field woes

Nate Bottiger, Staff Writer

The Pitt-Johnstown men’s and women’s soccer teams have starting goalkeepers that are highly ranked among NCAA Division II teams as of Oct. 9.

Red-shirted junior Mike Cuccaro is ranked first in the nation for saves per game (8.7) and is ranked No. 18 in the nation in his saves percentage.

“It is very exciting to be ranked first in the nation in that category. I never thought I would ever be that highly ranked in any category.”

Head men’s soccer coach Eric Kinsey said Cuccaro came back from the offseason, and took over the starting spot.

“He is great to work with, and always wants to learn and seek new knowledge.”

With the benefit of being fit coming into the season, Kinsey said Cuccaro also has a strong work ethic that helps him excel as a goalkeeper.

“He works incredibly hard.”

Cuccaro said he had only begun to play the goalkeeper position in his sophomore year of high school, and that none of his previous coaches knew enough about the position until he began working with Kinsey.

Seton Hill’s goalkeeper Jon DeLuca is ranked No. 9 in the nation, and Alderson- Broaddus’ Josh Teets is ranked No. 12.

Kinsey said the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is competitive when it comes to goalkeepers.

The Lady Cats also have their own goalkeeper who has excelled in national rankings. Junior Victoria Der Vanik is currently ranked No. 27 in the nation in total saves.

Head women’s soccer coach Jim Herlinger said Der Vanik might be the conference’s top goalkeeper and described her work ethic as “relentless.”

“She only knows one gear, and that’s hard.”

Herlinger said Der Vanik’s determination complements her work ethic, and she has showed steady improvement since coming into the program.

Herlinger also said Der Vanik is proficient out of the net when freshman goalkeeper Timi Shiock takes over.

“No college goalkeeper wants to play in the net all the time.”

The women’s team has been troubled by injuries, and both the men’s and women’s teams have had multiple issues with poor field conditions, game time changes and cancellations.

Kinsey said the men’s team has had a season full of ups and downs, but is still ranked No. 5 in the conference with a 5-5 overall record and 3-4 conference record.

“We still control our destiny to whether or not we will compete in the conference tournament.”

Kinsey said the key games of the season thus far were the 0-1 loss to California University of Pennsylvania, nationally ranked No. 20 at the time, and also the 1-0 double-overtime win over West Virginia Wesleyan, which was ranked No. 14 in the country at the time.

In order to combat the poor field conditions, Kinsley said the team has been practicing in the gym, and that team members have understood the situation and have been cooperative.

Kinsey said the team’s major season goal is to qualify for the postseason conference tournament.

On the other hand, the Lady Cats seem to be having a rough season so far.

Herlinger said the season has been frustrating for everyone.

Herlinger said that, because of injuries, there has not been one game this season where all 11 of the team’s starters have played together.

“It would be really great if we could have everybody healthy somewhere along the line.”

Herlinger said the team continues to work hard, despite the injuries, and that everybody shows up to practice and games, even the injured.

In addition to the injuries, the team has also had a hard time dealing with the poor weather conditions that have affected the Pitt- Johnstown soccer field. The poor fields have caused some game times to be switched and others to be canceled.

“We do not know whether or not we are playing, or what time we will be playing.”