LEVITTOWN – Most high school players don’t get to play with the varsity team as freshmen. Current Pennsbury senior Zach LoBasso is the exception to that rule, however.
With the Falcons struggling on offense in 2013, Pennsbury head coach Tom Stoddart had a hunch LoBasso might give his team the spark they were looking for.
“We decided to pull the trigger early and bring him up,” said the coach. “He got us into the playoffs and really moved us forward.
“From there, we knew we had a special type of player who could put the ball in the back of the net.”
As a sophomore, LoBasso teamed up with Alex Cardos on offense, helping the Falcons earn the No. 17 seed in districts with 10 goals and 10 assists that year. After blanking Radnor 1-0, Pennsbury fell 6-5 in a shootout with Unionville, then, the top seed in District One.
Pennsbury has made districts in all four seasons LoBasso has taken the field for the Falcons.
“Zach was an impact player from the minute he got into the program,” said Stoddart.
In 2015, entering the postseason as the No. 6 seed in the district, Pennsbury came this close to making states, defeating Great Valley and Lower Merion before getting ousted by Springfield 2-1 in the D-1 quarters. For his part, LoBasso chipped in with eight goals and three assists that year.
At season’s end, the Falcons waved goodbye to 15 seniors including goalkeeper Anthony Rosso and forward Colin Marks. No one was sure what the team would be this season.
“We didn’t know what we had so we just said ‘we need to practice as hard as we can. Let’s play as hard as we can and we’ll see what happens,’” explained LoBasso.
Pennsbury started the 2016 campaign strong with 12 straight wins before falling 4-3 in a wild and wooly battle at Abington. After dropping two of their next three including a 3-2 loss to archrival Neshaminy, the Falcons righted the ship with late-season wins over Strath Haven and SOL National Conference champ Council Rock North.
“The season started off really well and then, it dipped off in the middle, then picked back up,” explained LoBasso. “In the end, it wasn’t what we wanted but it was fun all the way around.”
For his part, Zach’s final varsity season was his most productive, with 16 goals and 10 assists.
Now, Zach is taking all the skills he picked up over the last four years and taking them to Conference USA rival Old Dominion. LoBasso also had interest from Georgetown and Saint Joseph’s but, when all was said and done, wanted to play for the Monarchs.
“It just seemed like the place I wanted to be,” said Zach. “They were super accommodating and very nice. The guys I stayed with were really cool; it was just a good fit.”
Now, he’s headed to Norfolk to help Old Dominion try to improve on a 6-9-2 overall record in 2016. A player who has been positioned up top his entire high school career, LoBasso says he’ll do whatever it takes to help his college team.
“Realistically, it doesn’t matter,” said LoBasso.
“If I had my choice, I’d probably say up top or outside-mid but I’ll go wherever they need me.
“I just want to play.”
Zach’s finest moment this year was Pennsbury’s 7-2 triumph over CB West in the opening round of districts. Unfortunately, the Falcons lost their next two playoffs to North Penn and CB East.
While Pennsbury may have gone further in districts last year, Zach says this was the most fun he ever had playing for the Falcons so that makes his final season the best, he says.
“This was the best year we ever had since I’ve been here,” he said. “Starting off 12-and-oh was awesome.”
While LoBasso toils for the YMS Premier 98 Boys team in the summer, he says playing for the Falcons, has really made a difference in his overall game.
“I feel my game has improved exponentially because of Pennsbury soccer,” he said.
“During the season, I noticed an extreme improvement in my play. I feel like that’s just playing every day; it helps you get your touch better. It helps you become more field aware.”
Among his highlights playing his final year for the Falcons was the team’s 2-1 triumph in OT over Abington on Senior Day.
“One, it was Senior Day so it was special to me and two, they’re a good team, we’re a good team, so it was a hard-fought game.
“When we won in overtime, it was a great feeling.”
A high energy player, LoBasso is one who plays with his heart on his sleeve. And sometimes, those emotions spill over.
“He’s one hundred percent, a soccer geek,” says Stoddart. “So any of his emotions come from his desire to play the game the correct way.”
The coach thinks LoBasso is already playing at the college level. As such, game officials would flag Zach for fouls the player didn’t exactly see as violations.
“He would lose the ball and within two seconds, he’d be back on top of the ball,” explained Stoddart. “The referees would be put off by that.”
“He would grow frustrated because he was thinking the referees weren’t allowing him to play his game.
“Sometimes, that would spin out of control on him but I thought for the most part, he kept it in check.”
The energy that Lobasso brings to the pitch, the coach says, brings others in on the task at hand, whether that’s getting the next goal or pulling out a big win.
“When he’s there, he’s not about himself, he’s about getting the job done,” the coach said.
And it goes way above and beyond that, says Stoddart.
“He’s one of those players when he’s around the ball, you know he’s going to make a play on the ball and you can feel the electricity in the air.”
Listening to the coach, one is assured that Lobasso will ignite the Monarchs shortly after his arrival at Old Dominion.
TOP PHOTO: Pennsbury senior forward Zach LoBasso (17), left, is headed to Old Dominion University to play men’s soccer. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)