Apr. 14—Tuscarora senior Vincent Lombardi couldn’t recall his younger brother, Tony, ever being quiet.
“He’s always been a talker since I can remember,” the elder Lombardi said Tuesday at Thomas Johnson High School.
It’s a trait that stood out with Titans boys soccer coach Todd Knepper, and it’s a big reason why Knepper leaned on Tony Lombardi, a sophomore, to assume co-captain duties along with Vincent Lombardi and Travis Hohl this season. It also doesn’t hurt to have a strong skillset.
“He’s just a complete player,” Knepper said of Tony Lombardi, who scored three goals in the Titans’ 3-0 victory over the previously undefeated Patriots. “We’ve been prepping him for this moment since he was in the fourth grade. He’s built for big games.”
Listen to Tony Lombardi speak, and it becomes apparent he doesn’t lack confidence. Knepper informed him of the decision to make him a co-captain two weeks before the start of the season.
Tony Lombardi is the first sophomore in program history to assume the role of captain.
“Nobody looks at me as, ‘Oh, he’s just a sophomore. He shouldn’t be a captain,'” Tony Lombardi said. “I knew the role was coming, and I knew it was my time to shine.”
Tony and Vincent Lombardi are starting center backs for Tuscarora (7-2 overall, 4-1 Spires Division), who will play Middletown in the CMC championship game on Thursday at a place and time to be determined. But when given opportunities to contribute on offense, Tony Lombardi puts that quiet confidence in his abilities on display.
Against TJ (8-1, 4-1), he struck the ball with conviction on two penalty kicks, depositing one shot into the upper right corner of the net in the ninth minute and then finding the lower right corner of the goal in the 70th minute.
In between the PKs, he caught TJ off-guard in the 38th minute after officials award the Titans a free kick just outside the 18-yard box. Instead of asking for TJ players to position themselves 10 yards off the ball and then assessing his options on the free kick, Lombardi chose to play quickly and rifled a shot past keeper Alex Reid.
“They must have saw a window of opportunity, and I don’t blame them,” TJ coach Jim Reigel said. “They pulled the trigger and executed a very simple, routine play on frame that caught us thinking. We were definitely walking through the motions of setting the wall, assuming they were going to want their 10 yards so they can set up and execute whatever set piece they wanted to do.”
TJ came into the contest having outscored their opponents 34-7. The Lombardis, along with backs Kyle Lillis and Julian Gomez, formed a back line that played a big role in holding the Patriots without a shot on goal. But after the game, Tony Lombardi showed some of the leadership Knepper appreciates, dishing out credit to the rest of his teammates.
Throughout the match, players such as Gabriel Reyes and Ryan Stouffer stood out with their ability to win balls in the air despite being no taller than 5 feet, 6 inches. Meanwhile, Reyes, Erick Rodriguez and David Diaz showed creativity on the field with a series of nice combination passes during the run of play.
“I don’t think it’s just our back line,” Tony Lombardi said. “It’s all 11 guys really putting forth their best effort, always working hard and staying disciplined.”