Dodging two defenders, senior co-captain and midfielder Matt Baluzy calls for the ball, redirects it down the line, sprints over midfield, kicks the ball across the field and chases after the play, his feet a mere blur hovering above the grass Sept. 25 at Carp Wood Field.
While Baluzy may not be the leading goal scorer or total point leader for the men’s soccer team, his role as a leader, his speed and his work ethic on the field every day are vital to the Bombers’ success this season. In his four seasons on the team, Baluzy has played a key role in helping the team to a record of 30–22–10 since earning a starting position as a freshman and starting every game since.
Baluzy said the energetic play he brings to the team stems from his passion for fitness.
“My biggest thing is working hard and being able to constantly run up and down the field every play and being involved in every part of the game,” he said. “I run a lot, mainly because I love running. I’m a big exercise freak, so it’s fun.”
Baluzy, an exercise science major with an emphasis in medical science from Salt Point, N.Y., said he began playing soccer at the age of 5. Early in his career, Baluzy played for FC LaGrange Premier team and East Hudson regional select team, in addition to playing at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School.
Head Coach Andy Byrne recruited Baluzy out of high school. Byrne said there was one area of Baluzy’s game that stuck out to him as a coach, even at the high school level.
It was Baluzy’s willingness to commit on both offense and defense that set him apart, Byrne said.
“If you ask any coach, that is something that really jumps out for a high school player,” he said. “Someone who’s willing to work on both sides of the ball, and [Baluzy] had that even then.”
Arriving on South Hill, Baluzy made an immediate impression on coaches and players. Senior co-captain, midfielder and roommate Jeff Geyer said Baluzy has stood out from day one of preseason workouts as a freshman.
“One of the things I noticed about [Baluzy] was that he didn’t mess up,” Geyer said. “He didn’t make mistakes in tryouts or the first week we were out there, so that was just amazing, but he’s just an overall friendly kid and that’s his personality all the way around.”
The energy that Baluzy brings to the field is evident from his quick cuts back and forth across the field, to the fact that he brings a lightheartedness to the team dynamic.
“Sometimes if you get too serious you lose focus of what you’re trying to accomplish,” Baluzy said. “So even during games I’ll crack a joke at someone if they mess up, just to kind of make them laugh about it and move on.”
This type of energy and commitment is something Baluzy applies off the field. In the midst of applying to medical school, Baluzy said his interest in the field is something he developed senior year of high school.
“I did a program that allowed me to go to hospitals and watch surgeries and shadow physicians,” Baluzy said. “I did that for an entire year, and that’s really what convinced me to go into undergrad as premed.”
Baluzy said he constantly is working to excel in athletics and academics, and his ability to operate at a high level in both illustrates his drive. Baluzy, in addition to being on the dean’s list for the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance and an inductee of the Phi Kappa Phi honor’s society, was named to the Empire 8 President’s List as a freshman for his academic success.
Geyer said Baluzy has the character that inspires everyone on the team to play better.
“When you see some of his tackles and the way he throws his body around, it encourages everyone to try to play like [Baluzy] and give it that little extra push every now and then,” Geyer said.
In his last season on South Hill, Baluzy said he’ll remain committed to the team, win or lose.
“My goal for the rest of the season is just to pick up the team morale and say, ‘We had a rough start, so we might as well just keep playing up from here,’” Baluzy said. “You can’t really look back, and just to try to finish off the best way we can and play the best I can until the end.”