Hazy goals for Celenza Soccer: The sky appears to be the limit for Giuliano Celenza, but, one year out of Curley, he's considering giving up the sport as a career.

November 13, 1997|By Brant James | Brant James,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Like with any youngster who displays a talent, expectation had been heaped on Giuliano Celenza. But his was more than a modicum of aptitude; his was the ability to make a soccer ball do his bidding in ways rarely seen in this area.

A star striker at Archbishop Curley and a standout for a national-champion Columbia City United club team, the Highlandtown native's career was rocketing forward a year ago faster than a kick off his powerful right foot.

First, there would be four years in a major-college program, then maybe a spot on the national team and a professional career.

But Celenza is still a young man sorting out his future, and at

times seems reticent about whether the game he loves will be his future direction or diversion.

Seven months after rejecting a full scholarship to nationally ranked Clemson, he is winding down his first season at Essex Community College. Celenza said at times he has considered giving up the sport that made him a local hero.

"There's times when I don't feel like playing; I get tired of it," he said. "Sometimes it gets old after a while. I mean, I could make it my entire life, but it all depends on what happens when I get older."

Celenza, a three-time All-Metro first-team pick and a two-time Sun Player of the Year, capped a stunning career at Curley last fall with 29 goals and nine assists. In four seasons, he scored 77 goals -- setting the school record by 10 -- and had 29 assists. Small and agile at 5 feet 7, 140 pounds, he led the Friars to four appearances and two titles in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association.

"He's probably the best, most natural goal scorer to ever come out of this town," Curley coach Pep Perrella said. "Guys like Barry Stitz and Jason Dieter were also very good, but Giuliano is the best finisher."

After leaving Baltimore Football Club, Celenza was a member of a Columbia City United team that this summer won the under-18 national title. Columbia City head coach John Ellinger, a national coaching coordinator for the U.S. Soccer Federation and an assistant for the Olympic team, said Celenza was an immediate factor on a squad full of players pipelined for national play.

"He's just one of those rare players," Ellinger said, "who has all the tools, everything you want in a striker."

Celenza, however, has not taken the path expected of him. He signed a letter of intent for a full scholarship at Clemson in February, but two months later turned it down. He did not offer any explanation to Clemson coach Trevor Adair. Celenza's parents, Maria and Ancelmo, told Adair their son simply could not bring himself to leave home, family and friends for a school some 400 miles away.

"Needless to say, we were very disappointed," Adair said. "This kind of thing doesn't really happen. This is a guy who could have been a key player for us right away."

Celenza's decision made him the only member of his United team -- including Clemson-bound teammates Pablo Webster (McDonogh) and Mike Potempa (Loyola) -- not to attend a Division I college.

"They tried to talk me out of not going. They were really upset," Celenza said. "But I had a lot of different reasons. It was the decision I made."

Some questions had been raised about whether Celenza would be academically eligible to play at Clemson, but he scored well enough on the ACT to gain admission, and had a tutor waiting for him there.

Maria Celenza said she and her husband left the decision up to their son.

"There is no need to try and force them if they do not want to go," she said. "They'll just end up back, anyway. Giuliano has never wanted to be far from home."

Perrella, who credits Celenza with doing "more for the Curley program than anyone ever," said he was surprised when Celenza initially signed with Clemson.

"This is a guy who has a very close family," he said. "And he's

had a lot of things done for him all his life. It's going to be tough for him to leave all that. I know his mom would probably be a mess if he left."

Still, Perrella said, he encouraged Celenza to go away to school.

"I told him to just go out on his own and give it a shot," Perrella said. "I think he has to mature as a man, and I don't mean that in a negative way, because I really love the guy."

Celenza's neighborhood roots would not let him go, but they did pull him into college when fellow Highlandtown native Tom Wall, the Essex head coach, offered him a spot on his squad.

"I knew Tommy for a long time," Celenza said. "If he hadn't called me up, I probably wouldn't have gone to school at all, to tell you the truth. I probably would have just played club ball for Columbia."

The move has worked out well for Wall. Celenza scored 26 goals and had eight assists in the regular season to lead Essex to a 15-2-0 record and a No. 5 national ranking. Celenza was a unanimous All-Region selection and a nominee for All-America honors.

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