Andy Szucs Inducted into WC's Athletic Hall of Fame
'Wilmington brought out the best in me'
January 2, 2012
Andy Szucs receives the congratulations from WC's interim president, Jim Reynolds, at the Homecoming induction ceremony for the Athletic Hall of Fame Oct. 1.
Head soccer coach Bud Lewis recalls seeing Andy Szucs in limited action at a high school soccer showcase in the mid-1990s.
“I came away thinking, ‘I don’t know if he can play for us,’” Lewis recalled.
Wilmington’s program had surged in 1996 to reach the Sweet 16 match of the NCAA D-III National Tournament; so recruiting talented high school players was not a problem.
“Never in my coaching career have I been so wrong about the prospects of a player,” he said. “Andy was incredible on the field and he was actually coaching on the field — as a freshman!”
Lewis described Szucs as a complete player as, from his central midfield position, he “controlled the pitch and pace of the game with a calm demeanor, incredible stamina and a brilliant tactical mind.”
But Szucs’ influence was not limited to the field — he almost single-handedly changed the culture of the team to one of playing for each other and the love of the game.
“His leadership was remarkable and his maturity was unlike any player before or since,” Lewis said.
The coach illustrated that point when the team played in San Antonio in 1999. Szucs and another starter, forward Mike Miller, were unable to play in the match against Trinity College, a top-ranked team in the nation that was one game away from setting an NCAA record 39 consecutive home game wins.
On the sideline, Szucs cheered on his teammates and helped them maintain what Lewis described as “a model of control and confidence” to defeat Trinity at home, which catapulted Wilmington into a 15-game win streak, the included a second consecutive Heartland Conference championship and appearance in the National Tournament, which ended with a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The stellar season earned Szucs First Team All-America honors, as well as Academic All-America accolades.
Former WC teammates celebrated Andy's induction at the Luncheon. From the left are Mike Evans'03, Wes Caudill '00, Jarrod Pitstick '00, Matt Milam '01, Andy Szucs '01, Brian O'Connell '01 and former assistant coach Brian Page.
“Everything went well my junior year,” Szucs said. “I really found my groove with my studies in religion and philosophy. Off the field I had a lot of good friends on campus. On the field we reached a really good level. We had a core group that had been playing together for two or three years.”
Stunned that he was named All-America as a junior, Szucs recalled asking his dad how that could happen.
“It’s the accumulation of work,” he said his father replied, noting that body of work goes all the back to when he was seven years old and fell in love with the game.
Szucs’ and the team’s success continued into the 2000 season, during which WC joined the Ohio Athletic Conference and won the regular season championship before falling in the OAC Tournament title game in a four-overtime, PK shoot-out against John Carroll.
Gaining an at-large berth in the “Big Dance,” the Quakers beat Kalamazoo in the opening round and got revenge by beating John Carroll 4-2 in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 before falling to Ohio Wesleyan 1-0 in the Sweet 16 game.
Szucs was a First Team All-OAC selection as Midfielder of the Year and earned Great Lakes Region and All-Ohio praise, in addition to being selected Academic All-America for the second year.
In searching for a college, the Dayton Carroll High School graduate said Wilmington College offered the balance he was searching for.
“I had friends that were either already there or had decided to go to Wilmington. I decided I liked the connections and the networking was good. I wanted to be a student-athlete and play a high level of soccer and have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. I thought it was a really good fit,” Szucs said.
A really good fit soon became a perfect fit as Szucs helped the Quakers to four of the best years in the program’s storied history. From 1997 to 2000, Wilmington College posted a cumulative 60-19-5 record, won three conference championships and played in two NCAA Tournaments.
(RIGHT) Joining Andy after the induction ceremony are many of his Sigma Zeta fraternity brothers from his era to the present. "I'm blown away at the number of people that came back to see me last night and today," Szucs said. "I can't express how much those guys mean to me."
“Wilmington College was a place that brought out my best,” Szucs said. “I was able to reach my potential as a player, and I did very well as a student. I had a great balance where everything was going well. It made it easier to be successful. I just had really good balance. The total experience, the environment allowed me to be a better player and a better person.”
Szucs’ 13 assists during the 1998 season still rank No. 2 on the WC all-time list. His 27 career assists rank eighth in team history. Individual success, he said, was the direct result of overall team talent and guidance provided by head coach Lewis.
“Bud is an amazing person, a great friend and mentor to me. He is very good at surrounding himself with quality people that he knows he can rely on to give him good feedback. He also is very good at receiving feedback. He’s just one of the most genuine people I have ever met.”
Szucs spent two post-graduate years as an assistant coach with the Wilmington College team. He now works with younger athletes as the director of coaching for the Lakota-Monroe sites for the Cincinnati United Soccer Club.
Szucs, his wife Michelle (Faltisco ’02), a former starter on WC’s women’s soccer team, and daughter, Nola Louise, live in Bellbrook.
“The game has given me more than I can express,” Szucs said. “Soccer has been the catalyst for many of the best things in my life.”