ELMWOOD PARK — Elmwood Park soccer coach Martin Blake likes to refer to senior defender Aleks Grabowski as “the human eraser.”
He’s grown accustomed to Grabowski coming up big in the back for the Tigers the past four years on varsity.
“He erases all of our mistakes,” Blake said following Elmwood Park’s 1-0 win over Muchin Prep Saturday in the Class 2A Elmwood Park Regional final. “His individual skills and knowledge of the game are something pretty special. That’s why he’s back there. He’s a senior captain and I’m happy for him.”
Grabowski got a kick out of the nickname his coach bestowed upon him after the game.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard it,” Grabowksi said. “I like it.”
He worked his typical magic at sweeper Saturday and also assisted on the game’s lone goal.
He sent a free kick from midfield that hit off the crossbar and bounced to an open Milosz Mordarski, who was able to control the ball and tap it into the right corner of the net with 8:43 remaining to give the Tigers their first regional championship since 2008 and their third in program history.
“I just wanted to get an accurate, hard ball in to either Milosz or Matt [Ziuzia],” Grabowksi said. “It was lucky, but it worked out good for us. [The regional title] means a lot to us. It was exciting to win the championship.”
Elmwood Park (11-7) is the top seed in the Ridgewood Sectional and will face No. 5 Ridgewood in the sectional semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Muchin (7-4), the No. 7 seed, applied heavy pressure late, but Grabowski and the Elmwood Park defense were able to thwart each scare.
Grabowski started playing soccer in fourth grade and has been a defender his entire soccer career.
“I was always taller than everyone, which really helps as a sweeper,” said Grabowski, who is unsure of his height. “It’s always changing. Being tall makes it easier for headers. My teammates really make me better. I know they all have my back and that makes me very confident.”
Co-captains Grabowski and Ziuzia are two of just four seniors on the team, along with midfielder Olutomiwa Akinrotima and goalkeeper Mario Muhaj.
“[Grabowski’s} kind of quiet, but he has a positive attitude,” Mordarski said. “He’s a really good captain. Aleks is really competitive. He has a competitive attitude and is really aggressive. It really helps having him back there, especially late in the games.”