Girard boys soccer off to its best-ever start

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes. Girard sophomore Jacob Gugliotta reacts after scoring a goal last Tuesday at Lakeview. Gugliotta leads the Indians with 20 goals, as Girard is off to its best start in program history.

GIRARD — In the decade-plus history of Girard boys soccer, few teams have amassed the start that the current roster has posted.

Sitting at a record of 8-2-1, the Indians’ current iteration understands that it’s building something special.

It’s about developing a program that hasn’t bolstered a winning season since going 9-6-2 in 2018, while also going 13-3-2 during the 2017 campaign according to OSSCA records.

Fourth-year coach Damon LaRiviere is seeing some of the program’s best soccer since he took the helm of Girard’s program in 2020.

“We’ve really put a lot of hard work in. I pressured the boys and we’ve really picked up from summer training and conditioning to our practices, and I push them hard in mandatory weight room and film,” LaRiviere said. “All those things, just every little bit helps just getting these boys to play at a higher level and believe in themselves and they really have. I told them at the beginning of the year that this can be a really special year, but we have to put the work in — nobody is going to hand us anything.”

Starting the season strong at 6-0-1, the Indians dropped their first two Northeast-8 contests against Poland and Hubbard, before rebounding with wins over league foes Lakeview and Niles.

Sophomore Jacob Gugliotta leads Girard with 20 goals, while tacking on five assists. Behind him is junior Andrew Whitfield with eight goals and seven assists. Senior Jayce Russell has seven goals with a team-leading 12 assists and fellow senior Alex Williams has recorded 65 of the Indians’ 68 saves at keeper.

Senior captain Jacob Williams credits the bond the current team has.

“We’ve come a long way from freshman year. We’ve been trying to build this team for four years now and all that hard work and dedication is really paying off this year,” Williams said. “(We’re just) communatating (and) staying focused because if we put that mentality in the game, we’ll achieve greatness.”

Gugliotta added, “we bond together. It’s good, we’re good on and off the field together, so that really helps. (We) just work hard and keep our heads up no matter what.”

Whitfield sees the success as a result of the youth and travel programs growing over the past several years, which has allowed Girard’s players to enter high school with a more improved skill set than before.

“I think we have 11 club players this year — I think that’s a big help for sure. Club soccer is always going to be a higher level than anything else you can go into,” Whitfield said. “The more club players, the more players playing at a higher level, (which) helps a lot on the field.

“Our coaches have done a good job of getting players to play and local club coaches have done a good job reaching out to us.”

LaRiviere places a focus on all the little things outside of the varsity season.

“Really good players develop themselves in the off-season. Club training is vital because they’re practicing all year around and they’re playing against really good competition,” LaRiviere said. “It’s a little bit of time off, then we come back in June and really condition hard. They took conditioning really seriously this year, (and) we made weight room mandatory. They were all there and it shows the difference.

“It’s something we’ve talked about. We heard Girard has soccer and you’d shake your head, so we really are doing more in the community and (raising) that awareness, so the community is there to understand soccer and give back. It just helps our program.”

With October slowly rolling around soon, the Indians look to have an exciting conclusion to their season.

“(We’re) still working hard. You have to just put forth the dedication,” Williams said. “We’ve come a long way. You can see how much since freshman year. From going negative (in point differential) and getting better every year to going positive, it just shows that if you put forth dedication and everything, and actually pay attention and put forth all that hard work, you get further.”


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