NEWTOWN – When goalkeeper Anthony Caruso went searching for the college where he would continue to play soccer, the Council Rock North senior looked way beyond the pitch.
After giving a Fairfield and Stevens Institute of Technology a close inspection, he decided on New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Caruso plans to major in engineering and the school in Newark has more academic options available to the current netminder for the Indians.
“I don’t want to go to college just for soccer,” explained Caruso. “You’re going to be learning there for the next four years.
“When I looked at the academic and athletic balance and also the future of all three programs, I realized NJIT was my best choice.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that NJIT will soon be opening a brand new 200,000 square foot athletic center. The new facility will be able to host 3,500 fans whereas the current Fleisher Athletic Center can hold only about 1,000 spectators.
And the Highlanders men’s soccer team plays nearby at Lubetkin Field at J. Malcolm Simon Stadium. Outfitted with new turf in the summer of 2004, the fully-enclosed facility includes lighting for night contests and seating for more than 1,000 spectators.
On the field of play, Caruso is encouraged by the fact that the Highlanders are graduating three senior goalkeepers. However, he’ll have to battle current freshman Victor Pujades, a 6-foot, 160-pound netminder from Spain who, last fall, broke the NJIT record for shutouts with seven.
As a high school senior, Caruso notched nine shutouts of his own and an 0.89 goals-against average, helping the Indians to their first state playoff berth in five seasons.
Anthony is quite familiar with waiting his turn to play, however. After seeing some time in net as a sophomore, he had to sit as a junior with Billy Storm in the net for North.
“Freshman year is going to be a building year for me – getting into the new workout schedules,” he said. “I think that’s going to be a good year for me and I think sophomore year, I can start competing for a spot.”
His last varsity season between the pipes, Caruso led the Indians to a 17-5-2 record along with District 1 Class 4A Tournament wins over Unionville and Neshaminy. His efforts helped the Rock to its first state playoff berth in five seasons.
In the PIAA Tournament, Anthony helped the Indians to a 2-1 overtime triumph over District 11 champion Emmaus. While North lost in penalty kicks in its PIAA quarterfinal with eventual state runner-up Elizabethtown, the Indians finished among the top eight teams in the state.
Caruso was among the best in the region this season, but he knows it wasn’t just him keeping the balls out of the net. When senior backfielder Eric Levine went down in the postseason, the Rock struggled in District playoff losses to eventual D-1 champion West Chester Henderson and third-place finisher North Penn.
“A goalkeeper is only as good as his back line,” he said. “It’s me and the four guys in front of me.”
“Sometimes, I made mistakes and the guys picked me up; sometimes, the guys made mistakes and I picked them up.”
“It was certainly awesome standing in the back and leading the team on from there.”
North’s defensive unit rebounded in a big way in states with Levine striking the first goal for North just three minutes into it PIAA opener with Emmaus and Caruso notching five saves to help preserve a 2-1 victory over the Green Hornets.
For his efforts, Caruso was named First Team All Suburban One National League goaltender and second team All-Southeastern Pennsylvania.
TOP PHOTO: Council Rock North senior goalkeeper Anthony Caruso will continue his career on the soccer pitch at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)