John Knebels

Sports Columnist

Archbishop Wood’s boys’ soccer program has benefited from a host of terrific goalies over the past few decades. That’s only one of the reasons why the Vikings consistently challenge for a Catholic League title.

But during Coach Joe Krantz’s 33-year tenure, less than a handful have been entrusted with the responsibility of being a three-year starter.

“Usually a sophomore isn’t good enough to beat out the older, more experienced players,” said Krantz. “It takes something special.” {{more}}

So, Krantz was asked, what is so “special” about senior Nick Aglira, who has stood guard in front of the Vikings’ net for the past three seasons?

“It starts with how hard he works at practice,” said Krantz. “He has always been willing to give everything he has in his preparation.

“Plus he has the size, good hands and he can read the game really well. He stays active. He doesn’t take any plays off.”

Aglira, a 6-foot-3-inch graduate of St. Bede the Venerable School in Holland, appreciated Krantz’s enthusiastic endorsement.

When he began playing soccer at the age of 7, Aglira immediately connected with the sport. He has never minded the pressure that comes with being the last line in defense. In fact, he thrives on it.

“It’s exciting,” said Aglira. “Everyone comes together and plays that much tighter. If you don’t enjoy the stress, playing goalie probably isn’t a good idea.”

The ability to not wither under difficult conditions, Krantz said, is a pivotal quality for a goalie to acquire during his development.

“When you compete against a strong opponent, the game likely won’t have many goals scored,” Krantz said. “You need someone in net who is confident no matter what the situation is.”

In the Catholic League, Krantz’s point is well-supported. Just check out the daily results where reported scores are usually 1-0 or 2-1. Rarely does a team outscore another by more than one goal, and several contests extend into overtime. That is true, especially during the playoffs, when a single error is all it takes for a team to advance into the next round.

This year, each of the league’s 14 teams plays each other once for a total of 13 games during the regular season, which ends Oct. 19.

At 8-2 in the Catholic League (and 10-4 overall through Oct. 11), Wood appears in good shape to reach the post-season, especially considering that 10 teams make the cut (the first six receive first-round byes).

Now that the Catholic League is included in the PIAA tournament, team goals move beyond the CL playoffs.

Wood’s team is listed as a Class AA team in the PIAA; last year, Father Judge fought to a scoreless tie in the PIAA state championship, thus opening the eyes of out-of-area naysayers who questioned the superior reputation of the Catholic League.

“There are so many things to play for,” said Aglira. “I think we have a good chance to meet some of our goals. Father Judge showed what can happen last year; they represented all of us as they kept winning in states.”

As they approach the home stretch, the Vikings appear to be more healthy than at any point of the season.

“We have had some injuries and guys have stepped up big-time,” Aglira said.

“When (senior sweeper and team captain) Ryan Joyce went down with torn ligaments in his foot, guys like (sophomores) A.J. Karl and Dan Knott filled in and did a great job. That’s what it will take for us to be successful,” he said.

In the meantime, Aglira will keep refining his skills under the tutelage of goaltending coach Chris Augustine, an Archbishop Wood graduate who was coached by former goalie phenom John Amorim at Holy Family College.

Krantz credited much of Aglira’s development to Augustine. Aglira concurred.

“He has helped me out a lot,” Aglira said. “He is able to find weaknesses in my game and then teach me the right way. He stresses the fundamentals.”

John Knebels can be reached at