He's the strong, silent type Boys soccer: All-Metro pick Vinnie Ciarpella has changed roles this year, becoming more defensive-minded for third-ranked McDonogh, which is 14-2-1.

October 11, 1998|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Third-ranked McDonogh's Vinnie Ciarpella is an effective player. And quiet.

The senior defender is "so proficient that you might not even notice he's out there," said coach Steve Nichols.

Not a flashy player, Ciarpella draws praise, if not attention.

"Vinnie played marking back last year, when we needed him to, and unfortunately, you're not going to score a lot of goals or get a lot of credit doing that," said teammate and close friend Jon Cole, a two-time All-Metro midfielder. "But when it comes down to defense, I'd put Vinnie right up there with the best in the region if not the country. Vinnie gets the job done."

The 6-foot, 180-pound All-Metro pick has anchored the Eagles to a 14-2-1 overall record, including 6-1 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association's A Conference.

McDonogh has 10 shutouts -- three shy of the school record the Eagles established last season -- and an 11-game winning streak that includes Ciarpella's game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over a Strath Haven (N.J.) team that was ranked 12th nationally at the time.

"It was on a free kick, which Jon Cole played to the near post over the top. Kaiser Chowdhry flicked it on, and I volleyed it from two yards," said Ciarpella, who has two goals and three assists.

"They were a good team, and that was definitely the best we've played so far."

Ciarpella seized the moment to score in that one, but this year is mostly about sacrificing for the team.

"A couple of years ago, McDonogh was a has-been in the A Conference and an above-average B Conference team, but it's guys like Vinnie and Jon Cole who have made it what it is today," said Nichols, whose team beat Mount Hebron of Howard County, 3-0.

"We have nine shutouts this year against quality competition," Nichols added, "and Vinnie's responsible for 95 percent of that."

When Nichols found out over the summer he'd be without U.S. Under-17 team sweeper Alex Yi -- who now attends the U.S. Soccer Federation Academy in Bradenton, Fla. -- Ciarpella was the obvious replacement.

"Vinnie plays mistake-free soccer and he's great, man-to-man," Nichols said of a player who is being recruited by Duke, Penn State, N.C. State, JMU and UNC-Greensboro, among others.

Ciarpella knows when to freelance and when to get his teammates involved, Cole said.

"Vinnie's got great vision coming out of the back," Cole added. "He knows when to play the little ball into the midfield to get the offense going, or when to take it long and stretch it out."

A veteran of several years of Olympic Developmental Regional team competition -- not to mention having been named captain and MVP of the U.S. Under-17 team in 1996 -- the returning first-team All-Metro accepted the challenge of being sweeper.

But to complicate matters, an injury to last year's starting keeper, Cam Thompson, thrust Bobby Benson into a starting role he hadn't had since his sophomore season. But Benson's doing fine, along with fellow defenders Cap Poklemba and Chris Zuk, with Ciarpella at the helm.

"We communicate well, and sweeper's actually a more natural postion for me because I play it a lot in club ball," Ciarpella said.

Said Cole: "A kid like Vinnie, he's unreplaceable."

Pub Date: 10/11/98

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