Last week was the second time this season Grant Engel has been awarded the title of UAA Player of the Week, which is quite the feat for the junior men’s soccer goalkeeper.Engel was awarded Player of the Week for his shutout performance against Lehman College.
Engel said that he was honored and surprised to receive the award, but he remained humble in his response.
“It’s always nice to get individual recognition, but I was honestly just happy to help pull out a win for the team,” Engel said. “Much of the credit has to go to the defensive line and the rest of the guys.”
The Lehman soccer pitch is part grass and part dirt because it overlaps with the team’s baseball field, making conditions especially nasty by the goal.
“I was basically diving in baseball dirt from both goals and I had to get my whole body behind shots to make sure the ball didn’t take an unexpected bounce,” Engel said. “We had to play long a lot out of the back because of the rough, scratchy dirt. The defensive line worked well together to play around these conditions.”
Engel grew up in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and has been playing soccer for as long as he can remember, following in his dad’s and older brother’s footsteps. He attended Birch Wathen Lenox School but surprisingly played on the field all four years of high school soccer. You could usually find Engel in center midfield.
Around the age of 14, Grant became his club team’s official goalkeeper, and the rest is history. His vast experience as a field player contributes to his strong technical capabilities. Engel is composed on the ball, frequently switching the ball in the backline and keeping possession when the ball is dropped to him.
“Engel is incredibly strong on crosses and exceptionally good at making reflex saves that other keepers would not be able to stop,” sophomore defender Matteo Schlitz said. “He’s commanding without being authoritative and is always supportive on and off the field.”
Communication is crucial for Engel and the defensive line’s success, especially because its center backs have experienced so many injuries this season. Engel said that freshman Carter Altman has stepped up in the starting center back position and worked to improve communication in the defensive line.
Despite not having achieved the NCAA tournament bid outcome he had hoped for this season, Engel is excited and optimistic about the future.
“We have a very young team,” he said. “I am looking forward to having a lot of the guys back next season. We have a great chance of improving as a team and being more successful next year.”
As this is Engel’s first year starting for the Violets, he intends to take the experience gained this year to continue to improve his game. Engel plans to keep training relentlessly in the off season with the overall goal of preparing to make it to the NCAA tournament next year.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 7 print edition. Email Nalani Ogawa at [email protected]