Springdale’s Zolnierczyk on radar for Division I coaches
Mike Zolnierczyk didn’t really expect to play college soccer until a few years ago. A multi-sport athlete, he got a late start into the world of club and travel soccer and the recruiting game.
Delayed start or not, Zolnierczyk is making up for it now. The Springdale rising senior goalkeeper is preparing for a busy summer of Division I college visits and camps and hopes that will lead to high-level offers.
“After I decided to make soccer my primary sport, I’ve really put all my work towards that,” Zolnierczyk said. “In the weight room, speed and agility training, technical training for goalkeepers and things like that, it’s made a world of difference. A few years ago, I was thinking I don’t know if I’ll play in college, but then after I started improving here, working hard and improving my game, I ended up getting better than I ever thought I could be, and now I recognize my potential is a lot higher than I even am now.
“I have a lot to do to get there, but I recognize I can get there, and I’m willing to do the work to get there.”
Many soccer players start playing Cup at a young age, Zolnierczyk said, but he was an anomaly: He didn’t join a team growing up. It wasn’t until three years ago that he decided to join Beadling Soccer Club, one of the more well-known and highly regarded programs in Western Pennsylvania.
Since Zolnierczyk joined Beadling he noticed a sharp increase in his soccer game. The 6-foot-4 Zolnierczyk has the natural frame for his position, but the club coaches focused more on the technical side of the game.
“I feel like my footwork and stuff has grown tremendously the past two to three years from where I was at to where I am now,” he said. “Just athletically, physically, I just got bigger, stronger, faster, the whole nine yards with all that stuff. I feel like I have grown a lot in that area.”
Zolnierczyk backstopped Springdale to the WPIAL Class A championship game and PIAA playoffs last year, posting a dozen shutouts as the Dynamos made one of their deepest runs in decades. His season with Beadling just wrapped up, with his team taking second in the Elite National Premier League.
But Zolnierczyk’s summer isn’t over, not by a long shot.
Beadling has a relationship with D.C. United Academy, and after a recent game between the two clubs, Zolnierczyk was invited to Washington to train with D.C. United, the youth program of the MLS team with the same name. Zolnierczyk spent two days training in D.C. and was invited back.
“I think we built a pretty good relationship with them,” Zolnierczyk said. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Beadling for that relationship.”
Next up for Zolnierczyk is finding the right relationship with a college. Beginning in mid-July, he will go on something of a three-week soccer tour of Pennsylvania with camps at Penn State, Bucknell, Robert Morris, Duquesne, Villanova and Pitt. He picked those schools out of “probably 100 to 150 emails” and said he built a personal relationship with each coach and would feel comfortable at any of them.
To this point, Zolnierczyk has no offers, but he hopes that will change soon.
“I don’t have any concrete offers on paper yet, but I feel very confident about the interest that the coaches have been giving me,” he said. “Some of the things that we’ve talked about, I feel very strongly that things are going to work out.”
Zolnierczyk credited Beadling and Springdale for their help in his recruitment. He said early in his procress he cold-emailed a few college coaches. When he received no response, Beadling’s leaders intervened with their connections to get things moving.
Springdale’s administration, he said, has been helpful in sending letters and making calls on his behalf.
Although he once thought it might be difficult to gain attention for recruiting, given Springdale’s small size and his late start to club competition, Zolnierczyk now believes he can get the ending he hopes for. But he won’t give up working to get there.
“With footwork and strength and stuff, there is no end. There is no time where you say, ‘Oh, I made it there,’ ” he said. “It can always get better. That’s what I plan to continue to do throughout the summer: physically getting bigger, faster and stronger, and technically I’m going to be working out with some of the Beadling teams that are still training.
“ … Everything could always get better. Even after that first Division I offer, if I do get a school like that, I’ve got to make sure I stay focused. I can never say, ‘Oh, I made it.’ I’ve got to keep working.”