Coughlin senior defender Matthew Davison called Crestwood senior midfielder Kyle Gegaris the smartest soccer player he’s ever seen in his entire life.
Playing with Gegaris since the two were 7-years-old, Davison saw the all-state player as one of the hardest workers he’s ever stood on the same turf with.
“From a young age, he’s always loved the game,” Davison said. “He’s always loved playing. He went there and he played with his head. He was so smart, and he’s so technically gifted, and he trained and he trained and he trained and he trained and he became so talented that it’s always hard to keep up with him.”
Gegaris’ smarts, skill and precision were on display this fall, as the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 first-team all-star led the seventh-seeded Comets to a quarterfinals win over No. 2 seed Tunkhannock en route to a District 2 3A final appearance — a game Crestwood fell to Dallas 2-0.
By season’s end, Gegaris had totalled 54 points on 42 goals and 12 assists. The senior led the league in both points and goals.
For his efforts during his senior season, Gegaris is the 2016 Times Leader Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
“It was a great season, obviously ending sadly with the lost in the district championship, but all four years getting to the semifinals at least, the last two years getting to the final — obviously winning it two years ago,” Gegaris said. “It was definitely good season to get there again.”
But how do you stop a player as talented as Gegaris?
Whether you ask Davison or Dallas sophomore goalkeeper Kyle Greenwood, who shut out Gegaris and the rest of the Comets in the District 2 3A final, the answer remained the same. You have to focus on your game without getting caught up in Gegaris’ talent.
“You just have to be alert at all times and just make sure you have a guy mark him at all times, and if not two guys on him at once,” Greenwood said. “Just play my game and be confident, and do what I do best.”
“You really just have to play because if you try to be physical with him, he’s technical enough to get away from you. If you try to shut down his technical side, he’s physical enough to beat you off the ball,” Davison added. “You really just have to go out there and play your hardest. It’s impossible to go out there and game plan on certain thing that he has.”
One of those guys responsible for marking Gegaris this year was Wyoming Valley West defender Jake Gurtis.
The junior made Gegaris his responsibility every time the Spartans faced Crestwood, and in turn held the first-team all-star without a goal in each of the two games between the two teams. Not only did Gurtis have to take away the playmaking ability of Gegaris, but he knew that he and his fellow defenders had to take away Gegaris’ teammates, too. Gegaris was just as capable passing the ball as he was scoring.
“He’s definitely a great player and we knew we had to play tough D,” Gurtis said. “I took on the challenge to man-mark him just to apply as much pressure as I could, not let him get any space, because once he gets space he’s hard to stop.
“Couldn’t let him turn with the ball and once he picks up his head you know you have to stop him right when he gets the ball.”
There’s a lot that has driven Gegaris to be the player he is today. But first and foremost, it was to put his team in the best position to succeed.
“Definitely being on top at the end of the season, which obviously we couldn’t achieve this year — pretty close,” Gegaris said. “The will to win at all times. I hate losing more than anything. Just to be able to produce, make my teammates better, really. I just hate being lesser than than anyone on the field. I want to be the one creating for my team, that’s getting his named circled by the opposing team, being a problem for the defense.”
Now Gegaris will use all of the lessons he’s learned up to this point when he starts the next chapter of his soccer career - in Brazil.
Gegaris is passing on a collegiate career — for now — in pursuit of an international career. While the details aren’t pinned down yet, Gegaris plans to train and then hopefully play in games with a team in Brazil when joins them this summer.
“I’m going over to Brazil to continue with soccer. Right now there’s three or four clubs that I have the option to join right now. Initially when I get there I’m looking to get into the flow of the Brazilian soccer atmosphere,” he said. “It’s life to them there, playing at a high level and the quality atmosphere at all times.
“Initially I’ll just be looking to get in with the training group, just be getting a lot of touches on the ball, every day, all day, and start trying to get some matches in. Take it from there.”