NORRIDGE — Wojtek Gasienica was brilliant in goal in the two games leading up to the Ridgewood boys soccer team's sectional final. But against top-seeded St. Ignatius, he was going to have to be even better.
He was. Gasienica, who saved 11 shots Friday, dived, tumbled and swatted balls over the crossbar. He made saves on two-on-ones. He caught shots with arms fully extended. He even redirected a ball with his face.
But for Gasienica and Ridgewood, it wasn’t enough. St. Ignatius won the sectional title 2-1 on Ridgewood’s home field, scoring two goals right before half. Gasienica’s play was outstanding, but “it’s always one thing you can do more,” he said.
Leading up to the title game, the sophomore keeper had consecutive shutouts, a 3-0 victory over Muchin in the regional title game and then a 2-0 win over Amundsen in the sectional semifinal.
“He’s one of our key players,” said Nadim Kehayov, a senior on defense. “He’s amazing.”
Gasienica is a master communicator on the field. During the final game, he was vocal for all 80 minutes, barking out tactical instructions and supporting teammates.
This connection with teammates has helped both Ridgewood and Gasienica. A staunch defense limited scoring opportunities for opponents in the postseason. In the second half of the sectional semifinal, Amundsen only got two shots on goal.
“Lately I’ve been in pretty good form,” Gasienica said. “The defense helped me a lot. The defense is the key to success, and they stopped the shots there and I stood there and watched them play the game.”
Though he’s a sophomore, Gasienica has a leadership role on the team.
“Honestly I can’t believe a sophomore could do such great things,” Kehayov said. “For me, he’s probably the best keeper I’ve ever played with, and it was just an honor and privilege to play with him. Even though he’s younger than us, he’s been a great leader and a great goalie.”
The loss to St. Ignatius was a somber one for Gasienica, but he said this year’s experience gives him motivation to get better and go further in the playoffs in 2014.
“He’ll probably go to the gym after the game right now,” Ridgewood coach Rob St. John said after the loss. “He’s probably going to drive himself over to the gym to work out. And first thing tomorrow morning he’s going to go to the gym again. That’s the kind of player he is.”