New league old hat for TSU goalie Big South honors Bel Air's Pellegrini

January 03, 1993|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

Towson State University, formerly of the East Coast Conference, had mixed results in its Big South Conference debut during the fall season, but for at least one athlete it was business as usual.

It didn't seem to make any difference who presented the opposition, Rich Pellegrini was the dominant soccer goalkeeper.

Pellegrini was named the All-Big South goalie after allowing just 22 goals in 19 games. He averaged four saves, and posted four shutouts. The Tigers were 9-9-1, with four losses by 1-0 scores, and a loss in the semifinals of the Big South tournament.

The work in goal by the 6-foot-1 junior from Bel Air resulted in his third straight all-league honor, following successive seasons as the All-East Coast Conference goalkeeper. As a freshman, he was the ECC co-rookie of the year and Towson State's rookie of the year.

"Being named to the all-star team was the supreme tribute for him, because in the first year, neither Towson State nor UMBC got much recognition," Towson State coach Frank Olszewski said.

Of the two conferences, Pellegrini said, "Overall, every team in the Big South is as good or better than those in the East Coast."

Looking back over the season, he said, "This was the best team here in the last several years. We had a lot of experience and there were more skills than before, but we missed a scoring punch."

Towson State finished with 26 goals in 19 games, but 14 goals were scored in just three games. The team was shut out a school-record nine times. The year before, the Tigers scored a school-record 49 goals in a 14-4-3 season.

One thing Pellegrini has going for him is endurance.

"I got a good work ethic in high school at John Carroll [where he was an All-County and All-Metro selection]. I wanted to play every game. And, in college, I have not missed any time because of injury," he said.

He was redshirted as a freshman -- "I got a chance to mature, while getting a good learning experience, in classes and in soccer" -- and has been a regular the past three seasons.

He missed only one game his first season when Olszewski wanted to give another keeper a start, and he was in for all but 12 minutes (reserve Jim Reigel finished one game) the next year. This past season, he played every minute.

"I've proven I can play," he said. "My height helps, and I have long arms -- I get teased a lot about that." He also has proven successful in the classroom, where he carries a 3.0 average in business administration.

Olszewski said, "He's a special kind of player and a special kind of person. He works extremely hard at the game."

Pellegrini is goal-oriented, his coach said.

"He has set goals not only for college, but beyond, and there is no doubt in my mind he will achieve them. He will be successful," Olszewski said.

Soccer is an important part of the Pellegrini family. Older brother Mike was also a former John Carroll standout who went on to earn All-East Coast Conference honors as a forward at Drexel University.

For the 1991 ECC championship tournament, the brothers were co-most valuable players after the teams played to a scoreless tie.

Soccer is one future thing on Pellegrini's mind, because he is looking at playing in Europe after graduation.

"He's a perfect goalkeeper because he has that special quality of confidence the good ones have," Olszewski said. "And he feels personally responsible for goals scored against him."

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