Sibling soccer standouts seek success at PSU-Behrend
By Chuck Curti
This story was originally published with the title "Soccer-playing Belacks pushing each other at PSU Behrend" by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review / triblive.com and is republished with permission.
|Jimmy Belack, Sr., Penn
Photo: David Sinclair
For the past three-plus years, a Belack has been among the top soccer players in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference. For the next three-plus years, a Belack likely will be among the top soccer players in the AMCC.
The Penn State Behrend men's soccer team (15-3, 9-0) is going for its second consecutive conference title and third in four years. Upper St. Clair grad Jimmy Belack was part of the 2011 and '13 championship teams and has paced the '14 squad with a team- and AMCC-leading 16 goals. His 41 points also lead the team and conference.
Last week, he set the Lions' all-time assists record with his 25th against D'Youville, then added two more Saturday in a win over Mt. Aloysius that clinched the 2014 regular-season AMCC title.
He's been an influential part of every team he's been on,” coach Dan Perritano said. “He's been influential in our recruiting as well. He was a high-level player coming out of high school. He chose us, and I think that opened up the minds of some of his current teammates.”
It also opened up the mind of his sister, Olivia, a freshman. She's been at the forefront as the women's team (13-4-1, 7-2) goes for its fourth consecutive conference title.
She leads the conference and the team with 10 assists, and with 11 goals, leads PSB in scoring with 32 points.
She's adapted to the college game really quickly,” women's coach Patrick O'Driscoll said. “(It's) almost like she glides when she has the ball. She's almost quicker with it. She opens up things for other players. She's just got all the tools you need to succeed.”
Part of that comes from growing up in a competitive household. With five siblings, Olivia had no trouble finding rivalries, particularly with Jimmy.
While competition always has been part of their relationship, the two share a tight bond. They still work out together, though Jimmy said not as often as people might think.
|Olivia Belack, Fr., Penn
Photo: David Sinclair
They also get to see the majority of each other's games since the Behrend men's and women's teams travel to matches together. Olivia said her biggest fan is Jimmy and vice versa.
We've been really close since we were little,” she said. “With soccer, we've always had a good connection with that. He always helps me out. I think him doing so well, and he really liked it here … we're very similar, so I had a feeling I would like it here, too.”
We're always talking about what each other did,” Jimmy said. “It's always nice to have a little rivalry just to be competitive.”
There are a lot of good numbers to throw around in those discussions. Both have shown a knack for scoring as well as setting up other players to score.
Jimmy's goal and assist totals this season are career highs and particularly remarkable, Perritano said, because he is being targeted by opposing defenses even more this season. Olivia has complemented Behrend's other prolific goal scorers: Seneca Valley graduate Alex Bilka (12) and Allyson Lonas and Jordan Oberlander (seven each).
The similar success might have something to do with their similar styles of play — a similarity Jimmy doesn't deny.
We're always hearing whenever we watch each other,” he said. “‘That looks like your brother,' or, ‘That looks like your sister.' So I definitely think there are similarities in the way we play.”
If they're so similar, who is the better player? Jimmy Belack laughs.
She can take me,” he said.
Chuck Curti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.