Loyola's men's soccer team is generally a hustling bunch. Then there's senior forward Bill Wnek, who takes that quality to a reckless degree.
Wnek is quick enough to blow by most defenders, although he'd just as soon go through them en route to the goal. On defense, Wnek sticks to his man and pressures the ball more like a midfielder or a back. He's always darting about, in search of action. He never seems to stop for a breather.
"Billy is constant motion on the field, always trying to do something constructive," Loyola coach Bill Sento said. "His defensive play has been every bit as productive as his offensive play. He has been able to contribute in many ways besides scoring."
Scoring is how Wnek mostly will be remembered. After recording 33 goals and 14 assists in his career -- including 13 goals and eight assists during his final regular season, which earned him Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors -- Wnek will be looking for a few more good shots tomorrow.
The Greyhounds (15-4-2) will travel to Rutgers (10-9-3) to play the Atlantic 10 champion in an NCAA tournament play-in game.
For Wnek, a second straight trip to the NCAAs would cap his collegiate career nicely. Beating Rutgers would add icing to the achievement. After all, Wnek scored 30 goals as a midfielder his last two years at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, N.J., and played in the state high school all-star game. Yet, the only schools seriously interested in him were Princeton and Loyola. Rutgers, located 30 minutes from Wnek's home, never called.
"They never even looked at me. I didn't even get a form letter," said Wnek, who expects to play before 50 friends and relatives.
Then again, Rutgers coach Bob Reasso wasn't alone in doubting Wnek. Although Sento recruited him, he only invited Wnek to try out for the Greyhounds as a freshman. No promises. No scholarship money. Just a chance to make the team.
"After his first preseason, Billy was on the fringe of staying with the program," Sento said. "A lot of freshmen have difficulty with the speed and physical aspects of the Division I game. Every once in a while, you'd see flashes that he could play. And he was always putting forth the extra effort, even when he didn't have the ball."
Wnek's work ethic paid off the following year, when Sento moved him to forward. Wnek scored a team-high 13 goals and was rewarded with a partial scholarship.
Last year, Wnek started in a scoring slump and never shook it. He finished with five goals and five assists.
"I think I put too much pressure on myself after my sophomore year," Wnek said. "Once I didn't score early, I lost some confidence. After a while, I started looking over to the bench, wondering if someone was going to sub for me."
By scoring a goal in each of his first two games this fall, Wnek buried such confidence problems early. And with Sento's new, aggressive attacking strategy, he and the Greyhounds have prospered. Loyola averages 3.7 goals a game.
"Bill was a marked man as a junior. He had a tough with the close marking good scorers have to contend with," Sento said. "He's developed a different mentality this year. He's stronger on the ball and more confident in turning and taking people on. A few of his goals are artistic, but the rest of them come from sheer effort."