Liberty goalkeeper wins games, influences people

October 11, 1993|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

The love affair with Josh Gursky continues at Liberty High.

It began last winter on the basketball court, continued last spring on the baseball diamond and has intensified this fall on the soccer field.

Everybody, it seems, has been captivated by this talented athlete -- on the playing field and in the hallways and classrooms at the school.

"Josh has a bubbly personality," said Liberty soccer coach Lee Kestler Sr. "It's like the kid doesn't have a care in the world. He's a free spirit. He and his brother [Geoff, a junior defender] were accepted right away when they moved here [from Wheaton High in Montgomery County a little more than two years ago]."

Josh lives by a simple code.

"If I can't say something good about another person, I don't say anything at all," he said. "I never get into talking negatively about teammates or my team."

Gursky is trying to help the Lions (8-0) win a state 2A soccer championship, and he's off to a tremendous start in the goal.

In eight games, he has some amazing stats. He made 17 saves against Glenelg and 12 saves against Linganore. For the season, he has faced 95 shots and made 84 saves.

His goalkeeping performance in the win over Glenelg was satisfying for the whole team because Glenelg defeated Liberty in the 2A regional final last season.

However, Gursky says his best game this season was the 12-save effort in a 1-0 victory over Linganore.

"I was locked up in a goalkeeping duel in that game, and it was great to come out with a win," he said. "I'm happy with the way I'm playing this season. There's a lot of pressure on me, but I feel confident because of my defense. The other team has to go through 10 guys to get to me."

Gursky has come a long way since last season, when he was third-string goalkeeper and a part-time defender. He was locked behind seniors Greg Schad and Chad Blubaugh and accepted his role with grace.

"You really couldn't call Josh a third-string goalie," said Kestler. "It was more a fact that he was a junior and the other two guys were seniors."

Kestler said his star goalkeeper is helped a lot by the skills he uses on the basketball court as a 6-foot-2 center.

"He is flexible, has good hands, jumps well and plays well in the air," Kestler said. "Also, he's fearless, maintains his concentration and doesn't often get caught up in emotional things."

Kestler also says Gursky has been helped by former Liberty and Catonsville Community College goalkeeper Jimmy Riegel, who has been working with him during practice on "all phases of goalkeeping."

The worst thing a goalkeeper can do in a tough situation is think too much, said Gursky.

"There is no time to think or get frustrated," he said. "You just have to use your reflexes, hands and be quick on your feet."

When not faced with a tough situation in the goal, the senior standout uses his enthusiasm to keep the Lions "pepped up" and heading toward the goal of a state title.

"I feel we can go all the way," he said. "But there's always that one time something bad can happen in a single-elimination tournament."

If Liberty does go all the way and has nothing more than one tie, some players on the 1993 team will collect on a friendly bet with the seniors from the 1992 team.

"Some of us have bets with last year's team that we'll do much better than they did [regional final]," Gursky said. "We bet that we would go undefeated, have no more than one tie and win the states."

It's all part of the fun season Gursky is having after watching from the bench most of last year.

"All these guys, except myself and Geoff, have been playing together for years and are used to winning," he said. "We've blended in. It's nice having my brother out there in front of me. He's an excellent defender. His under-17 team [Potomac Alliance] is ranked No. 4 in the nation. The only problem is that people get our names mixed up sometimes."

The senior keeper said he is 98 percent recovered from a terrible fall he took nine months ago on the basketball court.

In that fall, Gursky escaped with a pinched nerve in his neck after there had been some fear he might be paralyzed.

"That was my greatest Christmas gift ever," he said. "I was really scared."

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