Although described as small in stature, first-year midfielder Brian Spina has already made a large impact for the New Paltz Men’s Soccer team. Spina, a graduate of Bethlehem Central High School, began playing soccer when he was only two years old.
“I would play with my older brother who was already playing on teams,” said Spina. “I got started playing on my own team when I was eight and my dad was coaching.”
Spina first heard of New Paltz wanting to recruit him from former Men’s Head Coach Eric Watson, who was interested in having him. However, Watson would end up leaving and current Head Coach Gene Ventriglia would take the helm. When Spina heard about Ventriglia coaching the team, he said he was excited for the opportunity to play for him. Along with New Paltz, Spina said he was also contacted by SUNY Oswego, Union College and various other small schools.
“I looked at some schools that I didn’t really like as much as New Paltz,” said Spina. “I liked the school a lot and I knew some of the kids. Gene’s style of play definitely helped my decision though.”
Ventriglia said that when he was looking at Spina, he saw a quiet, but useful player and someone who he knew would eventually fit in well with the Hawks.
“Whenever you recruit a freshman, you never know how quickly they’re going to adjust when it comes to games,” said Ventriglia. “It’s a lot more physical and much faster. Brian is a very quiet kid, and I knew he could play. What’s great about him is that he’s so versatile. I’ve played him in the back, he’s played at center midfield and [has been] an outside midfielder.”
Spina has been in the Hawks lineup as a starter the entire season, and while he says it is a different animal than high school, he prefers playing college soccer much more.
“It’s a lot more physical,” said Spina. “Everyone cares a lot more in college; The emotion is much different, like how you think about the game. I like it a lot more though because it’s the more serious players. You can play in high school as a joke but here is where all the serious players come together.”
Before coming to college this summer, Spina played for the U-23 team in his area, along with fellow teammates Robert Wexler and Harrison Lane. The U-23 team was compromised mainly of college students, which Spina said was a large help in preparing to play college soccer in the fall. The time on the U-23 would help hone the skills Spina brings to the team as rookie player.
“He’s very skillful,” said Ventriglia. “He has good insights about the game in general. He reacts well and anticipates situations. You can’t teach something like that. Some have it, some don’t have it and some will never have it.”
During the Sept. 24 game against Oswego, Spina recorded his first goal as a Hawk off of a rebound from fourth-year forward Tommy Garafola. Spina, who knocked the ball in with a header, attributed this success to being the right place at the right time. Ventriglia said that not much of a fuss was made about the goal. Aside from being a new player on the team, the other players have accepted Spina as a contributor and someone who can play alongside
“He’s the type of kid I want to recruit,” said Ventriglia. “For a freshman to come in and have the impact he’s had, is really great.”