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Garcia's comeback has led to men's soccer's turn of fortune

Garcia's comeback has led to men's soccer's turn of fortune

Nov. 3, 2004

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. - When Andy Garcia's sophomore campaign ended abruptly with a broken foot, he felt soccer, which had brought him so far in life, had turned its back on him.

Now, a year later, Garcia leads St. Bonaventure in scoring, with four goals and 10 assists for 18 points. His 10 assists lead the Atlantic 10 Conference and rank among the national leaders. More telling than that, however, is how directly his presence translates into team success. Without Garcia in 2003, the Bonnies finished with only two wins against 16 losses. Now, with a game to go in the regular season, the Bonnies are split at 8-8, with a win over 21st-ranked Rhode Island last week.

"He's key to our success this year," said teammate Konrad Paszkowski. "He's part of the reason that I'm successful." All five of Paszkowski's goals have come off assists from Garcia. "Last year was a huge disappointment. It's hard not doing something you love to do...especially for that long," Garcia, a modern languages major, said.

Support and encouragement from his family, friends, girlfriend and coach helped Garcia overcome his disappointment and stay focused. "They helped me realize that it was not the end of the world. I could come back and be as good as ever," Garcia said.

After months of rehabilitation, Garcia spent the summer at home in Mississauga, Ontario, playing for two club teams and working on his fitness. "I wanted to make sure I came back in the best shape possible," Garcia said.

Paszkowski described Garcia as one of the most skilled athletes on the team, a player who takes control of the midfield, generates plays and creates goal-scoring situations.

"Some guys' job is to win tackles and find Andy as soon as possible. Andy's job is to make good things happen," said Bill Brady, who is in his sixth season as St. Bonaventure's coach.

An accurate shooter, Garcia has scored twice this year on free kicks. "When he takes free kicks, every team is afraid. And 90 percent of the time he will score or hit the post," Paszkowski said.

Though soccer is a team game, players bring an individual aspect to it. Garcia developed his skills by working hard at them. Brady and Paszkowski both called Garcia a leader who leads by example.

"At practices, he's out early and stays over late. He works on his individual game, which sometimes gets ignored in the team practice," Brady said.

Such dedication can be contagious. Now, Brady said it's common to see numerous players working individually before practice. Part of Garcia's dedication comes from an overwhelming love for the game. "It's a beautiful game," Garcia said. "No matter what race or ethnicity ... you can share it with anyone."

Garcia is also driven by his ambition to reach new heights. After college, Garcia hopes to play professionally, with the ultimate goal of playing in the prestigious European leagues. Paszkowski and Brady think he has a chance. Garcia said his injury taught him to take note of little things. Part of the reason why he broke his foot was that he didn't tie his shoes tight enough. He has been careful not to repeat similar mistakes.

Brady believes that Garcia already conducts himself like a professional athlete. "Andy is suited for the pro lifestyle because he eats, sleeps and breathes soccer," Brady said.

With Garcia at the helm for another year, the Bonnies can only reach new heights.

- By Nikhil Murali '05
Athletics Communications Intern
Posted Nov. 3, 2004