Elmwood Park has always been known for playing lockdown defense and taking advantage of opponents’ mistakes.
This year has been different. The Tigers have been much more aggressive on offense and are taking the fight to the goal.
“We’re normally a defensive team and have played tough, gritty defense. This year we’ve been scoring a lot of goals,” Tigers coach Martin Blake said.
Junior Matt Ziuzia has been a big part of the change. Ziuzia has enjoyed success in conference play with six goals, including a hat trick in a 5-4 loss against Riverside-Brookfield. He embraces this offensive style.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “We need to score goals to create opportunities for ourselves to win.”
“He (Ziuzia) is a big, physical kid,” Blake said of his star forward. “He creates a lot of chances on his own and is always looking for an opportunity.”
Sophomore forward Milosz Mordaraski said Blake knows the way to the net.
“He’s been our top goal scorer and player all season,” he said. “Kind of a one-man show out there on offense.”
In a weather-shortened 2-0 loss to Glenbard South on Oct. 3, Ziuzia remained a constant presence on offense. He registered two of the team’s three shots on goal and whenever he had the ball he pushed the attack by passing to teammates and jitter-bugging his way through the Raiders’ defensive line.
Ziuzia has a simple philosophy behind his playing style.
“You gotta play hard. Gotta go hard for the ball and make chances,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been going for. And I want to work on going to the goal, but also definitely getting my team touches.”
His physical play on offense has rubbed off on his teammates as a style they should all adopt.
“We need to be aggressive and not scared of anything,” Mordaraski said.
The Tigers, who have seven underclassmen on their roster, look to increase production as they prepare for regionals. While their offense has improved, it hasn’t translated to wins. They are seeded No. 13 in the 2A Ridgewood Sectional.
“As a team, we need to work on keeping up the pace,” Ziuzia said. “We need to come out strong and stay strong the entire game.”