When Tom Warzywak watched a few Colgan girls’ soccer games before becoming head coach, he saw the seeds of what has become a dominant program, which just won the first Cardinal District title in the school’s five-year history this season.
Warzywak noted that the program had a few .500 seasons before he took over in 2018, but the genesis of this season’s dominance, to him, began in 2019. The Sharks were led that season by Jada Konte, who eventually went on to play at the University of Connecticut.
“That was really our school’s Golden Generation,” Warzywak said. “We had a super strong team, led by Konte, and a really great group of freshmen.”
The Sharks finished 16-6-1 that season and lost in the regional semifinals. But the season included losses to perennial Cedar Run powers Battlefield, winner of three state titles, and Patriot, each of whom Warzywak called “well coached, technically strong teams.”
“The way that season ended left the girls super disappointed, but they walked away from that thinking they could be one of the teams to beat,” Warzywak said, adding the team was frustrated it could not get going in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fast forward to this season and Colgan (6-0 in Cardinal District, 9-0 overall) has dominated all comers. The lone goal surrendered by a Colgan defense led by Kirsten Shulsky and goalkeeper Grace Damato (both also team captains along with midfielder Alyssa Deguzman) was on a penalty kick against Forest Park.
“More importantly, the team is so technically sound, and its decision making so good, other teams really have a difficult task because of our speed. Speed kills and our offense shows that,” Warzywak said. “The thing that’s even more remarkable is they are so humble. They are just a great group of girls, on and off the [soccer pitch].”
Although Colgan has been dominant this season, the real test begins in the postseason, according to Warzyak.
“Being able to play against Cedar Run powers like Battlefield and Patriot, and teams like those in the Commonwealth District, will be a bit of a difficult challenge,” Warzywak said. “Beating teams like Battlefield and Patriot could come down to little tactical decisions that are made on the field.”
One of the hallmarks of Colgan’s success this year has been the team’s soccer IQ, which Warzywak said is “off the charts.”
“I’ve always been a coach that basically let’s the players do their thing and doesn’t say a whole lot,” Warzywak said. “The players usually take the approach of ‘Let us figure this out,’ and we have several players, who despite their youth, can do that.”
Warzywak cited the steady play of Deguzman, the Cardinal District Player of the Year, and freshman Kamryn Winger as key factors, particularly after Shulsky was slowed by an ankle injury.
“I didn’t hesitate to put Kamryn in there because she knows the game so well, like all of her teammates,” Warzywak said. “This team’s tactical play and prowess in the attacking third…teams have not figured that out. Our approach is to move it quickly and before you know it, the ball’s up the field.”
Warzywak also cited the team’s ability to communicate and work together among reasons for Colgan’s success.
“The girls have always been serious and laser-focused, but they also have the joy of the game. They have a really good understanding of what they need to do to win games. It’s a rare combination for a coach because you have an Aladdin’s cave of talent combined with outstanding coachability. These girls’ coachability is super-high and it’s been fun to coach them.”
Warzywak said he has kept the team focused by reminding them about their short- and long-term goals.
“Throughout the season, I have tried to focus them on accomplishing what hasn’t been done before, such as [winning] the Cardinal District title,” he added.
“Now that that’s been done, you have to remember what’s next. I try to tell them, ‘I know you are competitive. Chances to win a state title are few and far between, so you have to enjoy the moment and play in the moment.’ These girls are usually so focused on academy or club soccer, that most of them do want the high school experience. They want opportunities to do things like this.”