GREENVILLE – You can always find the good players by looking at the numbers, and just a glance at James Kasak’s will tell you he’s an impressive player.
But to find out just what he means to Riverheads’ boys soccer team, you need to look past the statistics.
On Tuesday, the junior scored three goals against East Rockingham in a 7-2 victory for the Gladiators, raising his career total to 72, making him the school’s all-time scoring leader.
Having a player with Kasak’s talent on his team is great, said Gladiators coach Scott Harrison, who is in his first year at Riverheads after coaching at Robert E. Lee last year. But Kasak’s leadership skills on the field make him invaluable.
“He has the knowledge he can share with (his teammates) in that if they are out of position, if they aren’t making a run, and I don’t see it, he’ll let them know about it,” Harrison said. “He’s not overbearing about it, though. His teammates respect him.”
“I’ve been coaching for 28 years, and I’d have to say he ranks as one of those special players who is able to share his knowledge not only through demonstration but also through a good constructive talk.”
Kasak started acquiring that knowledge at an early age. He started playing when he was 4 years old and living in El Paso, Texas, where a family nanny started throwing a ball to him and he started kicking it back to her.
By the time his family moved to Syracuse, New York, four years later, he was playing on an under-12 team at the age of 8. When his family moved to the Valley three years ago, soccer helped him fit in when he joined Soccer Organization of Charlottesville-Albemarle.
“It was different for me,” Kasak said. “But I started training in Charlottesville, and I liked the people I trained with. It helped me.”
When it comes to his heroics on the field for the Gladiators, Kasak doesn’t hesitate when asked for the reason.
“I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my teammates,” he said. ” I have some great players behind me. The whole team makes it work.”
He and his teammates made it work last year, when the Gladiators made an inspiring postseason run to the Group 2A final. Kasak scored all six of Riverheads’ goals in the semifinal win over Martinsville before the team fell to George Mason in the final.
The Gladiators lost five key players from that team, but Kasak thinks the current team is up for another solid postseason. “I think we have a good chance,” he said. “The guys who are back are more mature. The chemistry is good, so I think we’ll do well.”
“I think it’s a true love of the game and the willingness to be given the responsibility,” Harrison said of Kasak’s taking a leadership role for the Gladiators. “He understands his role on the team.”
Kasak doesn’t graduate until 2016, but he already has his collegiate future planned out, having committed to Virginia Tech. So, between playing soccer for both Riverheads and SOCA, where does he find the time to study to keep his grades up?
“At night,” he said with a laugh. “I study in between (practices), and I have time after I come home from SOCA tryouts.”