Many college student-athletes spend their summer alongside sandy beaches and on exotic vacations. Others spend theirs honing skills that will better their life in school and beyond. And some, like Heidelberg University goalkeeper Jeffrey Urizar, get to do both.
Urizar spent part of his summer living a childhood dream training with the Under-20 Guatemalan National Team. He is on the squad of 26 that will compete in the World Cup Qualifiers early next year.
"I've wanted to play professionally ever since I was a little kid," said Urizar, entering his sophomore season at Heidelberg, "and now I finally get to live that experience."
He made the team that traveled to Panama for the CONCACAF Under-20 qualifying tournament in mid-July, but was unable to attend. His passport paperwork was not yet finalized and could not join the team for those games. The team clinched a berth for the next CONCACAF Under-20 Championship that will be held in Costa Rica in February.
The Los Angeles native is excited to show what he has learned when he returns to the Berg.
"Every team has different tactics, and as a goalkeeper it is important to learn different and better methods to defending," said the sophomore. "There is something that can always be improved."
Urizar's unique summer on the pitch has impressed new Heidelberg coach Pat Svihlik.
"Jeff has an incredible passion for the game, "said Svihlik, who came to Heidelberg after a coaching stint at Notre Dame College. "He understands the severity of the challenges of the position that he plays on the field."
The experience working with world-class athletes has boosted Urizar's confident in goal.
"I've learned that I can compete at a high level...and that I'm willing to put in hard work to keep competing at that level," said Urizar.
"The lessons that he has acquired this summer will benefit him in all aspects of life, not just soccer," said Svihlik. "I am incredibly proud of Jeff and know that he is only going to grow stronger and stronger from the challenges that he endured with the Guatemala National Team."
SEASON PREVIEW: Another new era of Heidelberg University men's soccer begins in 2016 as Pat Svihlik takes over the program following an up-and-down 7-9-5 season a year ago. Svihlik inherits an evolving roster – with a wealth of local talent lost to graduation and an intriguing mix of talent from across the country returning.
"I believe we have a good balance with upperclassmen providing essential leadership," said Svihlik on the experience the 16 returners bring to the roster. "A lot of first-year players will be providing some depth and trying to push into one of the starting eleven roles on the pitch."
The Student Princes enjoy great depth in goal with a trio of returners. Alex Archambeau and Jake Kress saw a majority of the minutes in 2015. Urizar is back, fresh off his summer spent training with the Guatemalan National Team.
On defense, All-OAC First Team selections Greg Raimondo and Kyle Boone lead a gifted unit. Raimondo and Boone, both seniors, are flanked by Anthony Raimondo, Kyle Diaz, Joey Tallarico and Garrett McAfee.
OAC PRESEASON POLL: The Student Princes were picked to finish fifth in the coaches poll while Ohio Northern was chosen to finish first.
Ohio Northern 51 (6)
John Carroll 47 (4)
Baldwin Wallace 13
THE SCHEDULE: Heidelberg starts with an evening game at Oberlin on Sept. 1 at 5 p.m. The home opener is Sept. 4 vs. Kenyon at 2 p.m. Kenyon is ranked 8th in Division III according to the NSCAA Coaches Poll. OAC action starts with a home game on Oct. 1 vs. Muskingum at 1 p.m.
The Student Princes will play 7 home contests this season. Highlighting their schedule will be a matchup with Ohio Northern on Oct. 11. The Polar Bears knocked the Berg out of the OAC Tournament in the semifinals last season. The match is slated for a 4 p.m. kickoff at Hidden Valley.