Derek Potteiger & Ricardo Villar Two Hemispheres; One Common Goal
For Derek Potteiger, the senior All-American midfielder for the Nittany Lion men's soccer team, scoring was down from last year, and he was chuckling about it.
"Well, we're certainly spreading the ball around a lot this year, versus the last couple of years, when it was just Ricardo and I," Potteiger said. "Honestly, it's great, the younger players have come in and stepped right up and have taken on some of that pressure."
Potteiger was referring to the fact, that the All-American seniors, he and Ricardo Villar, now feel a part of a family this year. A family that they have helped create. Most, if not all the players comment that the mixture of young players, and the veteran leadership of Potteiger and Villar, has had a very positive influence on the team as a whole.
These are two players, from different hemispheres, combining to create one of the strongest mid-field combinations in NCAA men's soccer. Derek Potteiger hails from Mechanicsburg, Pa., about a 90-minute car ride from Happy Valley. Not that heavily recruited, Potteiger had his sights set on playing collegiate soccer and felt he could play at the Division 1-A level.
"I always had a lot of confidence in my own abilities, and I will always appreciate Coach (Barry) Gorman having that faith in me," noted the affable Information Sciences major.
Through a very tough work ethic and "can-do" attitude, Potteiger put the last year's team on this shoulders when Villar went down with a season-ending injury just two games into the year. He finished the year with 18 goals and 12 assists, earning first team All-Big Ten and Third-team All-America honors as a junior. While leading the team, he was also second in the Big Ten in total points with 32.
Ricardo Villar, on the other hand, hails from San Paulo, Brazil, by way of East Pennsboro High School. In 1999, he became the first Penn State men's soccer player to earn All-America honors since 1982, and the first Nittany Lion to earn Soccer America's Men's Collegiate Most Valuable Player.
During that year, he led the Lion's in points with 35, moving him up to 30th on Penn State's career points column. Last year, the NCAA granted him a medical redshirt, as he suffered a season-ending injury. This year, his last, he has resumed his sterling career with Potteiger, but with a much younger cast of characters.
"I have been very fortunate in my career and this year has been very fun," noted the Industrial Engineering major.
As Potteiger noted, historically, most of the team's scoring has been up to this Dynamic-duo. However, with the 2001 men's soccer team, everyone is taking turns, including the outstanding freshmen class.
It is apparent that both Villar and Potteiger now have confidence in their teammates' ability to put the ball in the back of the net.
"I have been very impressed with the humility that our so-called stars [Villar and Potteiger] have shown," head coach Barry Gorman noted. "These guys have certainly adjusted their game to the benefit of the whole team. They don't go out and look for the pass and the attention, but rather they are trying to create opportunities for their teammates. I think they handle this situation very well."
For Villar, one of college's best playmakers, this is a unique situation with so many play-making freshmen on the team.
"They are constantly learning from us, and we are learning from them. I watch them during practice and I want to give them the best opportunity to improve their game, and hopefully they want to do the same for us," he noted. Not that this ability to teach and lead by example hasn't gone unnoticed.
"I think the upperclassmen have worked very hard at making the underclassmen feel like a part of this team, " Gorman stated. "The freshmen and rest of the underclassmen want to learn, and be a part of the ingredient of a championship team, so they play for each other, and this team does that."
Leadership comes through teaching; it comes from the humility of giving up a portion of the responsibility; it comes from being open to new situations and making new teammates comfortable in a new situation; and it finally comes from reinforcing those actions on the field.
Repeatedly, Derek Potteiger and Ricardo Villar have demonstrated this type of leadership. They have long left their stamp of distinction on the Penn State men's soccer program that will be seen for years to come. But now, in the last year of their distinguished careers, they have enhanced their leadership for the betterment of the team as whole, and they hope to continue it as the season progresses.