Deer Lakes’ Greyshock, Springdale’s Zolnierczyk match successes
One stands 6 feet tall and spent his first two varsity seasons playing center midfield. The other has a lanky 6-foot-4 build and grew up as more of a basketball player before turning his attention to soccer.
Jesse Greyshock and Mike Zolnierczyk, the senior goalkeepers at Deer Lakes and Springdale, respectively, look different and go about their jobs differently. But they’re proving just as successful at stopping shots, leading their teams into Monday’s WPIAL boys soccer semifinals after back-to-back shutouts in the first two rounds of the postseason.
That’s been par for the course for most of the season: Greyshock has nine shutouts for Class AA No. 2 Deer Lakes (17-0-1), including four in a row, and Zolnierczyk has 14 for Class A No. 5 Springdale (15-2-1), including eight in a row.
The secret to success for Deer Lakes and Springdale begins in the back.
At 6 feet tall, Greyshock doesn’t have the prototypical size of many goalkeepers.
He has the mouth of a taller man, though.
“People would say I’m the most vocal goalkeeper they’ve ever heard,” Greyshock said. “I’d say that’s definitely my biggest attribute. Although my size might not be the most menacing to an opponent, my vocal abilities when I’m on the field give that presence.”
That doesn’t mean trash talk, Greyshock said. He uses his words more as a commanding presence on the back line for Deer Lakes, directing teammates where to go, whether that teammate plays defense or forward.
“He’s a quarterback out of the back,” Deer Lakes coach Jordan Wiegand said of Greyshock, one of two senior starters on his roster. “Even if he doesn’t need to make saves for a certain game, he still puts the pieces together the way he sees fit back there, and it syncs with what the coaches want to see, too. Whenever we need a save out of him, he’s going to give you that.”
Greyshock faced three shots in Deer Lakes’ two dominating playoff victories, 5-0 over Beth-Center and 4-0 over Waynesburg, but he stayed active, coming aggressively out of his net to punch or dive on crossing attempts.
“I like to play an aggressive style,” Greyshock said. “I like to go out for all crosses. I like to punch it. I like to get it out. Really, I don’t want the ball in my box longer than it has to be.”
Greyshock plays keeper for the Riverhounds club team, but he started in midfield at Deer Lakes before becoming the full-time goalkeeper as a junior.
Since then, he led the Lancers to WPIAL quarterfinal appearance in 2017, their first section title since ’03 and their first WPIAL semifinal appearance.
The time as a midfielder helped Greyshock build his foot skills so he can be relied on for more than just his hands and his mouth. He uses his athleticism in net as well and is planning to play in college, looking at the Division III level.
Monday’s game against defending WPIAL champion Shady Side Academy, Deer Lakes’ Section 2-AA rival, figures to test Greyshock, but he’s looking forward to it.
“What we’ve been doing this whole time is treating every game like a championship, and nothing else changes for this game,” he said.
Zolnierczyk became a starter almost from his first day on Springdale’s team, but that version of the Dynamos keeper looked very different than the current one. For one, he stood 3 inches shorter than his current 6-4, and he typically let his older teammates do more of the talking and leading.
That changed over the intervening three years. Zolnierczyk carries a commanding presence in net for Springdale, which finished as WPIAL runner-up last season and returned to the semifinals this season. The Dynamos will face Avonworth.
“I was big, athletic, but I didn’t have the soccer skills yet (when I was a freshman),” Zolnierczyk said. “I was kind of learning to deal with my size and grow into my body. The few years of playing high school soccer and also joining Beadling (Soccer Club) was a huge deal for me, all that extra training. Once I started to take soccer as my main sport over basketball and put my time and effort into improving my game ... everything started to come together.”
Zolnierczyk’s father coached him in basketball, and he still plays the sport, leading Springdale in scoring last season. But as his friends gravitated toward soccer, so did Zolnierczyk, who now holds a pair of Division I soccer offers from Harvard and Robert Morris.
Although Zolnierczyk considers soccer his top sport, his basketball skills translate to him in the net, helping him with side-to-side movement to cut off angles to opposing shooters.
The height doesn’t hurt, either.
“I was blessed with a great frame, and I feel like I can get to balls that I wouldn’t have been able to get to otherwise because of my size, and having the athletic ability obviously helps,” he said. “I was fortunate to be blessed with that. I’ve been able to make some saves that I’ve gotten my fingertips on that I knew I wouldn’t have gotten if I didn’t have the length.”
That includes a leaping tip of a free kick that he deflected just over the net in Springdale’s 1-0 first-round win over Bishop Canevin. He followed that by making a number of big saves in a 1-0 double-overtime quarterfinal win over Sewickley Academy.
Avonworth, which beat Springdale for the Section 3-A championship, will be Zolnierczyk’s next test. The Antelopes played Springdale to a 0-0 draw in the first meeting, then gained a 1-0 victory in the second. Zolnierczyk hopes he can help Springdale back to Highmark Stadium and this time win the title.
“When I was a freshman, we thought, ‘Let’s make the playoffs,’ ” Zolnierczyk said. “That was always the goal because we didn’t know any better. But now after the run last year, we knew we had a lot of talent, and we took that and ran with it. ... Last year was kind of the Cinderella run where we didn’t expect what happened, but now that we’ve had that experience, we expect to make it there and we expect to win.”