Episcopal Academy’s Zach Viscusi is Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week

A senior, Viscusi is among the leading scorers in Southeastern Pennsylvania this fall, tallying 16 goals (as of Nov. 8). He played center back for the first half of this season, then was moved to striker, and has been involved in every goal EA has scored this season against InterAc opponents this fall.

Q: You’ve scored 16 goals so far this season (as of Nov. 8). Is there one goal that stands out in your memory – can you describe how the play unfolded, and your role in the play?

A: Out of my 16 goals this season I would say to date the one that stands out the most was my second goal in our 3-2 win against Malvern. Malvern has a strong defense, exemplified by their shutout against three-time Inter-Ac champions Haverford. What makes this the one that stands out the most is that we were up 2-0, thanks to a corner kick that Nick Wallick bent in, and then in the second half Malvern tied it 2-2. The play we put together to score the game winner was near flawless. I can remember the whole play from start to finish. Ramon Gallegos won the ball at midfield on the left side of the field. He quickly switched the ball to our other striker Brandon Sheppard. Shep turned and switched it to our right mid Jason Miller who took a few touches down the right hand side of the field. Jason and I have combined for a few goals this year in the Inter-Ac so I knew when he was going to play it. As soon as it was in the air, I could tell it would be over the defender. The ball bounced once just outside the 18, a second time at the top of the 18 and I looked up to see the keeper coming out to cut down the angle. When it bounced the third time, I was in stride and just pushed the ball by the keeper into the net to take the 3-2 lead with 10 minutes left in play. I’ve been a part of a lot of goals in my career, but that was the most special. The fans were going crazy before the ball hit the back of the net and our keeper AJ Marcucci ran the length of the field to join the celebration. It was a great team goal and I still get chills thinking about it.

Q: What to you has been the highlight of your EA soccer career to date? Can you share with us your most vivid memory of that experience?

A: I think the highlight of my EA soccer career has to be our 1-1 tie against Haverford. Haverford is a strong team and we haven’t had a win against them in as long as I can remember. However, in this game, I was fouled early in the box and Matt DePillis put the PK in. Matt grew up and has spent his entire life at EA. It has been his dream to score against Haverford since he was young. To play a part in helping him achieve his dream was a really special moment. This game was a highlight not only because of that, but because our defense as a whole played fantastic. Matt McDevitt, Matt DePillis, Benjamin Valdes, and Nick Wallick held the Fords to only 1 goal (which was off a free kick) late in the game and Matt Freese laid his body on the line for us that entire game to keep us in it. Connor Gregory took the left foot free kick from just outside the 18 and bent it in. It was a nice goal on his part.

Q: You were moved to striker from center back at mid-season. How do you view your on-field leadership role on the team, both as center back, and as striker? Can you give an example of how you have seen fit to assert a leadership role during a game this season?

A: I feel like I’ve played a similar leadership role at center back and at striker. We have a strong team this year with a lot of chemistry, so it makes our (Matt DePillis and my) job as captains easier. Personally, I believe myself to have always been a vocal leader. My dad used to coach me when I was younger and always said that communication made the difference between a good player and a great player, so I’ve always strived to communicate when I’m on the field. At the beginning of this season we had a few kids who were new to the starting line-up. Matt DePillis and I made it one of our goals this season to lead by example on the field to show these newer players how to respond to the competitive league environment. Whether it was getting everybody pumped up during our 1-1 tie against Haverford or keeping everybody calm in our crazy 3-2 win against Malvern; DePillis and I tried to lead by example in those games.


Q: Is there a player whose overall game and leadership you try to pattern your own after?

A: I don’t think I really style my play or leadership after anybody. However, I will say that many people have impacted me and I’m appreciative of all those who helped me to get where I am today. All of my coaches know the role they have played to get me to where I am, but one person who I’ve never vocalized their impact on me is my former club teammate Matthew Blackman (Friends Central School Class of 2017). Matt was the kind of player who always made everybody around him raise the bar. Whether it was practice, a scrimmage, or a game, Blackman would always push us (his teammates) to give everything we had. I’ve taken that mentality that he had and tried to instill it into our team this year at EA.


Q: Who is your favorite soccer player, and why?

A: I think Robin van Persie would have to be my favorite player. Not only does he score some firecrackers, but he also makes some fantastic runs off the ball. The way that he can get out of the defenders sight for a brief second just to capitalize on their mistake is admirable.

Q: What do you think is the strongest part of your game? What part of your game are you particularly working on at this time?

A: I think at this point in time, my vision off the ball is my strongest asset. I have a knack at picking out what is going to happen a few steps in advance, which is a result of our team having such good chemistry this year. In terms of working on my game, I’m always working on improving. At this time I’m not focusing on any particular part of my game, but rather just working on playing as a whole to help our team finish strong this year.

Q: Who have been your top soccer mentors, and what has been the most important thing each of them taught you?

A: My top soccer mentors have been my coaches. My dad coached me when I was younger and the most important thing he taught me was that nobody can do it on his or her own in soccer. He always said the assist was worth just as much as the goal and that’s something I’ve always remembered. After my dad coached me, I played for the BYC Warriors under Andy Homka. He taught me that footwork and ball skills were just as important as speed and strength in becoming a good forward. After BYC I moved to FC Philadelphia where I was coached by Mike Welsh and later, former Liverpool Academy and current Philadelphia Union Academy coach Gary Lewis. Gary taught me how to make runs off the ball and how to time my runs effectively to score against tougher defenses. Last but not least, there is Coach David Knox who taught me how to be a physical player and utilize my physicality to my advantage.

Q: What has been the highlight of your soccer career outside of EA?

A: Outside of EA a highlight for me would be winning the semifinal game in the Division 1 Delco playoffs in my second season with the BYC Warriors. In Delco, only the top four teams made the playoffs and that year we squeaked by as the No. 4 seed. We had to play the No. 1 seed that had beaten us earlier in the season by a larger margin than I’d like to admit. We played them on Germantown Academy’s stadium field and I remember scoring two goals that game. One was a rebound from Brett Homka’s bullet of a left foot. The second one was a through ball from Matt Moore that I ran onto and placed into the bottom corner. We won the championship the following day, but the semifinal meant a lot more to us.

Q: You wear No. 3 for EA. Is there a reason you picked that uniform number?

A: There are a few reasons I chose this number. First, when I came to EA, the number 8 was already taken, so I needed a new number. Jack Keffer wore No. 3 my sophomore year and I remember Jack as a strong leader. So, when Coach Knox had me start at outside back last year, and I had to choose, No. 3 just felt like the right choice for a defender. I later learned that my mom had been No. 3 her whole life growing up and now it’s [my sister] Alex’s number for Princeton’s softball team. So now it’s like a family number I guess.

Q: Your sister Alex Viscusi had a great softball pitching career with EA. What was the most important thing you learned from her?

A: Alex and I have always been close so it was great to see her help EA’s softball team the way she did for the past four years. She’s at Princeton playing softball now and she calls me once a week or once every two weeks to check in. I would say the most important she taught me was work ethic. When Alex was at EA, she had pitching lessons, hitting lessons, and club practices year round. On top of doing all that she had to do her homework and had to stay involved in clubs and sports at EA. Where some kids got a break on the weekends, that’s when she would be waking up at 5 a.m. to go to a tournament for two days and trying to still finish everything else she needed to do. I still to this day don’t understand how she did it all, but she taught me that if you want something you need to work for it long after midnight has come and gone and then be ready to put on a smile the next day at 6 in the morning.

Q: What would you like to major in at college? Is there a career field that particularly interests you at the present time?

A: At this current moment I’m not sure what I want to do. I really like math and science and I’ve been told I have a knack for public speaking, so I want to pursue a career where I can utilize all of those skills. I want to love doing what I do instead of “surviving” until the weekend.

Q: You’re also a two-year varsity wrestler. What has been your most memorable experience as an EA wrestler – can you share it with us?

A: I wrestled for the first time my freshman year and was automatically placed onto the varsity line-up, as there was nobody else in my weight class at EA. Luke Brooman and P.J. Cusack, who were the captains at the time, tried to teach me the basics so I would be able to stand my own out on the mat. I remember our first match was against Friends Central School and I was asking around trying to find out if the kid I was going to wrestle was any good. Everybody told me he wasn’t good so I was excited because my first varsity match would be a win. When I got to the meet and got out on the mat, I was ready to beat this kid. We shook hands and the ref blew the whistle. Twelve seconds later and the ref raised Noah Snyder’s hand for the victory. I left the mat and all the guys on my team broke the news to me that Noah was actually pretty good and had placed top five at the State tournament the year before.

Q: One of your off-field activities is Improv Club captain, which includes performing at “Open Mic Nights.” What has been your most memorable experience at “Open Mic Nights” – can you share it with us?

A: I got involved in Improvisation my freshman year. I remember performing at my first Open Mic in December. We had a good amount of people in Improv that year and I remember the game we played that night was 5-4-3-2-1. The way the game worked was there were five groups of two people. The first group would step onto stage and the audience would give them a word to build a scene around. This repeated for the remaining four groups, one at a time. After each group goes one time, the audience votes out the group they think performed the weakest. In the next round the first group gets up and performs trying to combine another plot with their own. This continues for the rest of the round and the audience votes another out. This process is repeated until only two groups remain. When the last two groups remain, all four people are on stage and finish out the scene. I remember I was paired up with a senior and I was intimidated by the size of the crowd. We barely got past the first round and then we just started to kill it. Every round after that there was an uproar of laughter when we were on stage. We ended up winning that night and from then on I’ve loved making people laugh.

Zach Viscusi’s top picks

Book: The Great Gatsby

Author: J.K. Rowling.

TV show: Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Movie: Step Brothers.

Pre-game pump-up song: Don’t Stop Me Now, by Queen.

Athlete: Michael Jordan.

Historical figure: “I admire Welles Crowther. Many people don’t know Welles by his name, but rather by the title “The Man in the Red Bandana.” On 9/11, Welles was in the South Tower when it was struck. He saved the lives of the people around him by directing them to safety. When the group got to the firefighters on the stairwell, Welles ran back up in an attempt to save more people. Those he had saved escaped the tower, however, the tower collapsed while he was still in it. 24-year-old Welles Crowther was a hero on that day and I admire him for his bravery and selflessness.”

Team: Manchester City.

Place to visit: “I’ve only been there once, but I loved Italy when I went there.”

(To be selected as Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by his coach.)

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