by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor
Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union
Who would think that goalkeepers needed to be good with their feet. After all, that isn’t really the first thing that comes to mind when you think of elite keepers that play across Europe.
Some of the best keepers in the world weren’t known for having tremendous feet in goal. They weren’t ask to play the ball out from the back. Think of Gigi Buffon, and you think of the great hands, and reflexes, he has that helped Italy win the World Cup in 2006.
The game has changed, and so had the position. More coaches talk about possession. They want to build the attack from the back - and that starts with the keeper. It also starts with the keepers feet. Being able to get the ball out from the back is every important in today’s game.
Williamsville South High School goalkeeper Jack Petrie had a lot of time on his hands this summer. With the pandemic in full effect, Petrie had time to work on different aspects of his game. That included working on his feet more. Trying longer passes, getting the play started faster - so his team can start the counter attack quicker.
“I worked for hours with my feet, playing long balls and practicing my touch either alone or with friends. It’s never difficult for me to find players/friends that want to take shots on me. I was able to arrange scrimmages against rivaling schools to help get our South team ready if the season transpired. I also was invited to join a mens league as their goalie who ended up winning the championship. The hardest part this summer was finding a net and not getting kicked off a field due to all of them being closed,” explained Petrie. “The ability to use my feet is one of my strengths. This allows my teammates to use me as an extra option. Most goal keepers are now required to have these skills. This takes a lot of time and effort, but worth it because of the advantage it provides your team.”
Petrie also knows to be a top keeper one needs to be fearless. Playing the position is not for the faint of heart. There are collisions and all kind of nasty things that go on inside the box. Just recently during a girls game. Lancaster keeper Shea Vanderbosch went up for the corner and hand her hair pulled, which made her drop the ball on the ground and the other team scored.
It’s dangerous in the box, but keepers can’t be afraid. Petrie knows that when the ball comes in his area that it’s his. He can’t worry about what is going on around him. He needs to take control of the situation, and make sure no one scores.
“When the ball is in the air, I have two choices; Get the ball in my hands or away to safety,” stated Petrie. “Securing the ball is my main goal. You don’t have time to think, you just react on instinct.”
Petrie also knows how important communication on the pitch is. He is the leader of the back line, the last line of defense. He sets the walls on set pieces. He makes sure that everyone is in the right position during the game.
Petrie knows exactly what he wants when there is a set piece. He makes sure he directs his teammates and puts them in the right spot. Even if something is slightly off, a goal could happen.
“Communication is one of the most important parts of the game When commanding your team you have to be confident, decisive and develop trust. If you do not communicate effectively you are at a disadvantage. Goal keepers have to communicate more than any other player on the field. If I am able to direct my team in a positive way, it sets us up to be more successful. My parents have always said that I have a big mouth,” explained Petrie. “The amount of men I need depends on the location of the free kick. What is important is that when I have only seconds to choose, our team works together and has confidence with my direction. I set up my wall immediately and the start working to make sure every man is covered. It's the same type of idea for corner kicks. Make sure every man is covered and we then get the ball out.”
The fact that Petrie, and the rest of his teammates, even got to this point in the season is a miracle. With the pandemic still gripping the world, no one knew if there would be a high school season.
Some college soccer has been postponed until March, and high school seemed like it would follow suit. While high school football and volleyball were pushed pack to late winter, early spring, soccer and other fall sports got the go-ahead to get playing.
It was about a month later that normal, with the season taking place in late September, but it was well worth the wait. The games have come fast and furious over the first month of the season, and Petrie couldn’t be happier.
Not only is this his senior year, but this is the game that he loves. He loves playing soccer. he couldn’t wait to get back out there and play with his teammates, and enjoy his final year playing for Williamsville South - a school that has given him so much.
“When you are in high school you never imagine yourself as a senior. I can’t believe that this is my final year at South. I am incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to play my senior season. As nice as it would be to have a senior day, I would rather have a crowded stadium filled with my friends and family cheering our team on. That would be amazing for a senior day,” stated Petrie. “I have loved every minute of being at Will South. Our school has tremendous school spirit and we all take pride in being a Billie Goat. I truly enjoy spending time with my friends, going to games and school events. I have met amazing friends, parents and teachers that helped me grown into the person I am today. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to go to Will South.”