Matteo Del Giudice is reserved off the field. On it, his passion and skill are impossible to overlook.
Maybe it’s the sum of years of practice. Maybe it’s because he grew up with four brothers, who roughhoused and played sports with him. Perhaps it’s because he was only 3 years old when he rode a bike for the first time — without training wheels.
Regardless of the process that molded him, Del Giudice emotionally and strategically led Olympia High School’s soccer team from the goal.
Even after three of Olympia’s defensive replacements were asked to play in the back line with no experience, Del Giudice, a senior, tallied five shutouts this season, which is why he is The Olympian’s 2017 All-Area boys soccer player of the year.
Three of the shutouts came toward the end of the campaign, signaling how Del Giudice helped his defenders develop as they gelled.
Kolby Johnson, a senior and longtime teammate, said Del Giudice took charge of his defenders and made sure they knew what to do in any situation.
“The back line got stronger as the season progressed,” Johnson said. “It showed that he knew how to get them on the same page.”
Del Giudice said he tries to be as vocal as possible during games, a practice that led to being named the team’s most inspirational player in 2016, his first year as a varsity starter.
“On the field, I’m in the zone,” Del Giudice said. “I want things to be a certain way and I want us to win, and I push everything aside and just focus on that.”
Johnson said he has been that way since the two were in seventh grade. Johnson and Del Giudice first met playing club soccer, though they were on different teams. They occasionally saw each other at school but never talked until they both joined Blackhills FC.
“I got to know him through soccer,” Johnson said. “He’s reserved and laid back off the field, like an introvert … but on the field, he steps up and is pretty vocal about things.”
Named to the Class 4A South Puget Sound League first team, Del Giudice uses his elite speed and agility to dart around inside the goal, preventing opponents from scoring.
Ty Johnson, Kolby’s father and Olympia’s boys soccer coach, said Del Giudice is one of the most athletic players he has ever had on his team.
“First and foremost, you can have a great team with a poor goalie, and it’s very tough to compete,” Ty Johnson said. “Or you can have a poor team with a great goalie, and you’re gonna stay in games.”
Del Giudice spent the first two years of his high school career playing on the junior varsity team as he developed his confidence, something Ty Johnson deemed a goalkeeper’s most important trait.
Despite his self-assurance, Del Giudice initially didn’t know whether he wanted to try to walk on to the soccer team at Cal Poly, where he plans to attend college.
“I told him if he didn’t try to walk on, I’d take him over to the field myself and make him,” Ty Johnson said.
He said Del Giudice’s value goes beyond his physical skills. His leadership and composure essentially turned him into an extension of Ty Johnson’s coaching staff, and even on light days, Del Giudice kept his team motivated.
“He always was on these guys to stay focused, keep your eye on the prize,” Ty Johnson said. “Whether it was practice, before a game, Matteo was no nonsense, which I really appreciated.”
Months away from beginning his collegiate endeavors, Del Giudice seems to have his options figured out. He’ll try to walk on to the soccer team at Cal Poly. If he doesn’t land a spot on the roster, he’ll play club soccer in California.
Either way, he said he’s going to miss the competition of soccer with his teammates on the weekends, but that won’t stop him from keeping his intensity as he extends his career.
“It’s going to be a huge change in my life,” Del Giudice said. “I’m definitely going to have to get used to it … but as I grew up, the game grew up with me.”
The Olympian’s All-Area Boys Soccer Teams
Player of the year: GK Matteo Del Giudice, Olympia, sr.
Coach of the year: Ty Johnson, Olympia
Forward — Bekele Dowty, Black Hills, jr.: Was shadowed by opposing defenses in every game he played, but the 2A Evergreen Conference first-teamer still managed 12 goals and nine assists.
Forward — Jose Flores, Shelton, sr.: Played a limited season because of an injury, but still scored nine goals for the Highclimbers and recorded double-digit assists. First-team 3A South Sound Conference selection.
Forward — Austin Mikesh, Tumwater, so.: Lightning fast and a powerful finisher at the goal, he led the T-Birds with 15 goals and added three assists. Second-team 2A EvCo selection.
Midfielder — Khalil Bredeson, Olympia, jr: First-team 4A South Puget Sound League selection was a threat on offense and defense. Helped the Bears to the state playoffs with seven goals, eight assists.
Midfielder — Marco Ferrari, Tumwater, sr.: First-team 2A EvCo selection is silky smooth with the ball and an exceptional passer. Finished season with a balanced nine goals, 10 assists.
Midfielder — Jesus Flores, Shelton, jr.: The younger Flores added six goals and had double-digit assists for the Highclimbers. Second-team 3A SSC selection.
Midfielder — Kolby Johnson, Olympia, sr.: Field general for the Bears in one of the state’s toughest leagues converted three goals and eight assists. Two-time Olympian All-Area selection and second-team 4A SPSL selection.
Defender — Madison Douglas, Timberline, sr.: Two-time Olympian All-Area selection led Timberline to its first postseason game in a decade. First-team 3A SSC selection created scoring opportunities from the back line, contributing five goals, two assists.
Defender — Jack Harrison, North Thurston, so.: Helped the Rams to the district playoffs by taking away and countering scoring opportunities. Part of a back line that recorded four shutouts. Second-team 3A SSC selection.
Defender — Adam Warren, Tumwater, sr.: Physically tough and difficult to knock away from the ball. Two time Olympian All-Area selection and first-team 2A EvCo selection helped the T-Birds to the district playoffs.
Goalkeeper — Cody Bragg, Shelton, sr.: Was a brick wall and averaged double-digit saves per game in front of a young defense. Second-team 3A SSC selection had the Highclimbers one win away from the state playoffs.
Forwards: Adam Rapacz, Olympia, fr.; Mario Silva, Centralia, so.; Trace Thompson, Elma, sr.; Jackson Winterrowd, North Thurston, jr.
Midfielders: Phillip Hoang, Olympia, jr.; Hunter Karsseboom, Black Hills, sr.; Alex Amado, Timberline, sr.; Charles Jellison, North Thurston, sr.; Gavin Stewart, Yelm, sr.
Defenders: Willie Klemmer, Capital, sr.; Matt Lamfers, Timberline, sr.; James Morimoto, Black Hills, jr.; Ian Taylor, Olympia, jr.
Goalkeepers: Jaelen Bush, Timberline, sr.; Britton Fine, Tumwater, jr.