DelGreco saves best for last


David DelGreco has played in his fair share of heated soccer matches, but few can match the intensity of the backyard games he had with older brothers Mark and Bob and next-door neighbor Alex Fischetti growing up.

Whether it was soccer, basketball or hockey, the tenacious quartet would engage in spirited two-on-two battles that would often end in arguments. That's what you'd expect to happen when putting together four determined kids who simply hated to lose.

Now a senior center midfielder who led Seton-La Salle to Class A WPIAL and state titles as a sophomore, DelGreco still brings that all-or-nothing attitude he developed in those early tussles. These days, with backyard games less frequent, DelGreco channels his desire for success to the high school pitch, and it's keyed him to become the Pittsburgh area's best and most clutch boys' soccer player.

"I have a major fear of losing," says DelGreco.

DelGreco, who's a four-year starter and a two-year captain with the Rebels, continually comes through when his team needs him most. Heading into this season, he had 13 career goals in the state playoffs and several clutch strikes in the WPIAL tournament.

In the 2006 WPIAL final against Shady Side Academy, the Rebels found themselves in a scoreless tie until early in the second half when DelGreco netted what proved to be the game-winning goal in a 3-0 victory.

During warmups, Seton-La Salle head coach Aaron Panczyk practiced volley shots with his squad, a routine dubbed "volley nation." Panczyk would toss the ball in the air and the player would let it bounce and then boot it as hard as he could toward the goal.

DelGreco had one of the hardest volley shots, but it would often sail over the net. But come the biggest game of his young career in the WPIAL final, DelGreco scored his pivotal goal on a volley in nearly the same spot he'd been kicking prior to the game.


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"He always saves his best for last, and his best just keeps getting better," says Panczyk, who's in his sixth season as head coach.

After being swarmed by his teammates, DelGreco met Panczyk on the sideline, where his coach complimented him on the goal and reminded him it was a "volley nation" shot. To which DelGreco simply replied, "It's about time I put it in."

The response reflected a confidence not normally found in a sophomore, especially in a pressure-packed WPIAL final. DelGreco traces his poise to being a role player as a freshman and sophomore on teams that featured his brother Mark, who played two years at Penn State Behrend, and Terry Boland, who's now at Virginia Tech.

"I was kind of the guy under the radar, so I was left alone," says DelGreco.

But DelGreco can do more than find the back of the net. He showed his versatility as a freshman and sophomore, playing stopper and totaling 28 assists to go with 21 goals over the course of those two seasons.

He moved to center mid last year and tallied 28 goals and 18 asssists to earn All-Area honors from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and an All-State selection from the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association. A coveted recruit, as of press time DelGreco was considering programs from the Patriot League and Atlantic 10, as well as Allegheny College, where his brother Bob played.

Besides putting up impressive numbers, DelGreco is a player who thrives on doing the dirty work — winning 50-50 balls and headers or making a key tackle. With his willingness to contribute in all facets of the game and his ability to come up with clutch strikes, it's no wonder the Rebels have advanced to the WPIAL finals in each of DelGreco's first three seasons.

"A lot of players are referred to as animals, but I don't know how else to describe him," says Panczyk. "The kid just wins every ball around him. He has the biggest heart and desire to win of anyone I've ever coached. He has a tendency to will his team to win."

"He's just tougher than the other kids," says assistant coach Mike Thomas, who is DelGreco's cousin. "Dave will just run right through you. He just gets it done."

In particular, DelGreco believes that playing with his best friend, Fischetti, a senior midfielder/forward and fellow captain, has made him a better player overall. Fischetti, who has committed to Pitt as a partial-scholarship player, recorded 10 goals and 18 assists last season and was selected to the Tribune-Review All-Area team.

"We have probably the best chemistry you can get," says DelGreco. "We feed off each other. Me knowing where he is and him showing up to play every game helps me and the team."

"I know where Dave is at all times, even if I haven't looked at him in the last five minutes," adds Fischetti. "It's that connection of being like brothers. You'll get that with being with that person so much."

DelGreco's competitiveness has been fueled even more this season by the memory of losing to rival Sewickley Academy in both the WPIAL finals and the state semifinals last year. With DelGreco back for one more season, the Rebels feel good about their chances.

"Dave doesn't jump the highest or run the fastest in the WPIAL, but he has the innate ability, something you wish every player had, to make everyone around him better," says Panczyk.

"I will never back down," adds DelGreco.

Jon Mahoney covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com.