In the world of sports, it is common knowledge teams best prepare for postseason play by competing against a tough schedule earlier in the season. The same can be said for players themselves, who improve their skills by battling against opponents better than themselves early in their career.

Hamilton High West goalie Giuseppe Scordato has four shutouts in his career and routinely keeps the Hornets in games. (Photo by Rich Fisher.)

Giuseppe Scordato found himself in that opportunistic situation in his mid-teens, and it has resulted in the senior being one of the Colonial Valley Conference’s outstanding soccer goalies for Hamilton West.

“I never had the privilege of being able to go to a lot of camps so I actually started out my first camp my sophomore year,” Scordato said. “That’s how I found my Princeton FC team, and ever since then I feel like I’m improving. They didn’t have a U16 or U17 team so I had to play U18 when I was 16. Then we went up to U19, so when I was 17, I was playing against some kids that were about to commit to college and stuff.

“That helped me a lot with their exposure. I was a little rocky playing against U19 kids, but as the season went on I was able to adjust to how they played. I was able to see balls I wasn’t able to see before, reach balls I wasn’t able to reach before.”

Not to mention, the game didn’t seem quite as fast when he returned to the varsity level at West. Scordato came in fairly raw as a freshman and was forced into varsity action early that season due to injury to the starter. He has been there ever since.

“He definitely had a lot of potential, obviously, since he’s lived up to it,” Hornets coach Chris Morales said. “I think just gaining his confidence was a big thing, coming in as a freshman, even as a sophomore. That’s especially tough for goalkeeper, you see a lot of physicality in that position. It’s kind of growing into his own and claiming what’s his.”

Scordato made 111 saves as a freshman, 93 as a sophomore and 132 as a junior. He recorded 15 games with double figures in saves, has authored four shutouts and had four other games where he allowed just one goal; all on teams with losing records. This year, although Hamilton got off to a 1-4-1 start, Scordato continued to play consistent in goal and keep Hamilton in games.

“He really fine-tuned his fundamentals and understanding of the game the past three years,” Morales said. “I think he really sets himself apart from the other keepers. He’s progressed in leaps and bounds. In my opinion he’s one of the best keepers in the league. His reaction time is second to none. He’s got a huge punt, he’s vocal, he’s strong and he commands the box. He’s a captain, he’s a leader on the team, he’s a leader on the field. He’s composed. He’s a guy you can always count on.”

Scordato started his career as a defender in the Hamilton Recreation League before moving to the Hamilton Hammerheads travel team at age 11. One day his coach asked if he wanted to try goalie, which was a foreshadowing of his freshman year at West.

“Our goalie got hurt, and they just threw me in,” he said. “I wasn’t supposed to play that game. I was like, ‘Why me?’ but I guess everything happens for a reason.”

So, why him?

“He just said, ‘You’re defense, just get in there. You got it,’” Scordato said with a laugh.

And so he trudged out to goal and did the best he could.

“Obviously I wasn’t playing spectacular,” Scordato said. “But I had a few saves. After that I was like, ‘I think this position is something I want to try out.’ My coach put me back in, and I ended up starting the rest of the seasons I played with them.

“Ever since then I’ve been hooked on the feeling of making the save. As I progressed and got better, making a game-changing save is the best feeling. It can’t compare to anything else.”

Scordato remained with the Hammerheads for four years and helped them to nationally ranked status. The team broke up once the players attended high school, and Scordato entered Hamilton along with Hammerheads teammate Stephen Mizsak, who plays defense right in front of the keeper.

“He’s the rock I have in front of me,” Scordato said.

One of the issues Scordato has conquered since playing high school soccer is not dwelling when he allows a goal.

“Since I was defense I had that mentality that ‘This is my fault, it got past me,’” he said. “But as I got older and more mature I began to realize if I keep doing that I’m gonna keep conceding goals. So I learned to deal with it.”

Morales agreed, saying, “He bounces right back. It’s the kind of thing that we forgive ourselves but we don’t forget and we move on to the next day.”

In assessing his physical traits, Morales feels he has “decent vision” and is quick off his feet when need be.

“I’m able to dive to areas of the goal where most goalies in high school can’t,” he said. “I’ve been able to get to some places a lot of people think I couldn’t get to.”

One thing is certain. Scordato’s presence in goal is a calming influence for Morales.

“Oh yeah,” the coach said. “It’s one less thing that the team has to worry about. He’s so reliable I never have to think twice about him.”

When he’s not playing soccer, Scordato is in Hamilton’s Unified Club, Key Club and Junior Achievement Club. He is hoping to get recruited to play soccer but if not, he will focus on majoring in business and perhaps go into human resources. He is taking three Advanced Placement courses this year, which is why soccer is such a nice escape for him.

“Whenever I come on the field, I forget everything,” he said. “This is my fun. When I make those saves, it’s amazing.”