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Pirates' catalyst for success

Scoring, leadership, keen field vision - Matthew Zarek provides it all.

By KELLIE DIXON
Published March 7, 2007


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photo
[Times photo: Danny Ghitis]
Matthew Zarek gets a header in Crystal River's 1-0 region quarterfinal win over St. Augustine.

Matthew Zarek can't groan like Chewbacca.

At least the Crystal River senior wasn't daring enough Monday to unleash the low cry of the Wookie from Star Wars.

But there are some clear reasons why the 6-foot-1, 185-pound center-midfielder got his nickname.

Zarek has technical know-how on the field. His soccer savvy made him a prime contributor for the Pirates and he led them in scoring with 17 goals.

He has field vision, which helped him find the open player in clutch situations.

He also has strength. In fact, Zarek's ability to dominate a player and win a 50-50 ball is what earned him the nickname.

Zarek's philosophy this season was simple. All he wanted to do was help out the team. That meant shifting from left outside midfielder to center-midfield. He shared midfield duties with Chris Fleming and handled most of the Pirates' set plays.

"He brought stability to the team," Crystal River coach Michael Callaway said. "He was the catalyst there. Everything came through Matt. The center-midfielder is the one who can distribute and has good vision of the field."

He always has had an eye for the game. Growing up, Zarek would catch games on television. His favorite player is Thierry Henry, who plays for the English club, Arsenal.

"When I watched him, he made everything happen," Zarek said. "He was such a great player."

Zarek aspired to be great, but he initially struggled with confidence. As a junior he was comfortable, but he didn't think he contributed like he should.

"Last year I didn't think I was as much of an asset as I could have been," Zarek said. "So this year, when I started out I was a lot better. I helped the team out a lot more."

This year the game came to him. He was the team's vocal leader and he led by example. Zarek settled loose balls, won challenges and calmed down fired-up teammates.

When it mattered most, Zarek would come through. He helped the Pirates win the regular-season district title with the winner against Lecanto, then a pass to Xavier Villachica, who scored the winner against Citrus.

"I came prepared," Zarek said. "I'd score the goal. When chances came to me, I actually made something of them."

Kellie Dixon can be reached at kdixon@sptimes.com or 352 544-9480.

First Team

Xavier Villachica, Forward Crystal River, Junior

The Pirates' true striker netted 15 goals, including two in the Pirates' come-from-behind district title win and two for the Pirates in two postseason matches.

Bodee Wright, Forward Citrus, Senior

The top scorer in the county and a playmaker for Citrus. Wright finished the season with 20 goals and 18 assists.

Michael Burnett, Forward Lecanto, Sophomore

Led the Panthers with his strong ball-control skills and tallied 11 goals. He helped the young Lecanto team reach the district finals.

McKenzie Olivares, Forward Springstead, Junior

The Eagles' leading scorer with 13 goals, he provided a much needed scoring punch up front.

Matthew Zarek, Midfielder Crystal River, Senior

A high percentage of the Pirates' possessions came through the defensive center-midfielder, who tallied 17 goals and helped the Pirates reach the region semifinals.

Cody Grey, Midfielder Central, Junior

Tallied 14 goals and four assists for the Bears.

Preston Shutts, Midfielder Springstead, Senior

Everything you'd ever want a senior captain to be. He brought leadership and scoring ability (nine goals) to the middle of the Eagles' attack.

Jacob Grey, Midfielder Central, Senior

The Bears' leaders in assists with 15, also scored nine goals while playing both forward and midfield.

Jake Miceli, Defenseman Springstead, Senior

One of the top defenders in the area, he also scored four goals and had six assists.

Scott Hubbard, Defenseman Crystal River, Senior

The veteran sweeper led the strong senior defense that gave up 18 goals in 25 games and handled all of the Pirates' corner kicks. Hubbard scored three times.

Jason Bowie, Goalkeeper Springstead, Senior

Recorded 113 saves, gave up 18 goals on 164 shots and recorded 10 shutouts. Shared time with Kyle Beach during the regular season, but come playoff time, the Eagles called on Bowie, who allowed just two goals in a 2-1 loss to Pasco in the district title game and single-handedly prevented Springstead from getting beaten by eight or nine against Bishop Moore.

Coaches of the year

Michael Callaway, Crystal River Sal Calabrese, Springstead

One is a newcomer. One is a veteran. Both took their teams to the playoffs this season. Calabrese's Springstead squad lost just two games before a tough 2-1 loss to Pasco in the district title game. Callaway inherited a mostly senior squad and led it to its first district title since 2002.

Honorable mention

Citrus Bryan Tobin

Central Alex Beiswenger, Joel Beiswenger

Crystal River Alex Crandall, Chris Fleming, Jarrod Green, Sean Mulligan, Eric Swanson

Hernando Cody Washburn, Lance Vandervoort

Lecanto Tyler Jordan

Nature Coast Garrett Karp, Ian Maclean, Nick Allegra

Seven Rivers (fall soccer) Chris Dobson, Shane Lecouris, Keisuke Idota

Springstead Cesar Abanto, Kyle Beach

Hernando Christian Charles Dinunzio, Sean Byrne

[Last modified March 7, 2007, 01:28:25]


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