Camp Hill goaltender Noah Smeriglio wasn’t always good between the pipes.

Well, he’ll tell you he was never good at sports in the beginning period. But, as the Lions prepare for a chance at back-to-back PIAA Class 1A titles at Hersheypark Stadium at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against Cardinal Wuerl NC, the team is most likely glad that all changed for the senior who sits at 78 saves and 16 goals against.

“I played basketball and baseball, which I was never that good at them. That being said I was pretty awful at soccer, too,” Smeriglio admits.

Even Smeriglio’s older brother, Raymond who played some goalie, winger and center back for Camp Hill his senior year, was more of a track star than a local soccer star. The younger Smeriglio began playing basketball and baseball before dabbling in soccer during the sixth grade for the Camp Hill Soccer Club.

Smeriglio kept up with soccer as a forward, and when the starting goalie went down with a knee injury, he was the first to raise his hand and volunteer to take over. Smeriglio has stayed in that position ever since.

Fast forward to sophomore year and that child who looked “awful” on the field and in the net began looking more like the impressive keeper that holds down the defense for the Lions today.

“I was pretty bad until 10th grade. Plus, there are some pretty great goalies in the Mid-Penn, so I was doubtful,” Smeriglio said when asked if he imagined he would be as good as he is now. “When I started playing until around sophomore year, I was pretty bad. I just always had an amazing defense in front of me from when I started playing keeper from sixth grade club and onward.”

From humble beginnings, Smeriglio never takes his talent in the net for granted. The jokester of the team will always sprinkle in some sarcasm whenever he gets the chance, but he puts in the hard work when it’s due. His coaches appreciate what he brings to the squad and will say he’s “pretty chill, and not one to be over dramatic.”

“He’s a great kid and obviously very coachable,” head coach Justin Sheaffer said. “He’s a leader on and off the field and he’s got a good work ethic, and he’s driven.”

Ilija Trgo-Pezer, a 2015 graduate and one of the Lions’ best goalkeepers with 195 career saves, was a vital part in Smeriglio’s training. He and goalie coach Ryan Polly helped grow the goalkeeper into the product on the field he is today.

“My coaches mainly see me when it’s that time to work, but my goalie coach Polly sees the joking side of me a lot more than he should,” Smeriglio said.

The team came into this season with a huge target on their backs after winning the Class 1A crown last season. However, Smeriglio and the team will be the first ones to tell you that after winning the District 3 Class 1A championship, the nerves aren’t really hanging around.

“Very little stress is looming around,” Smeriglio said. “We have been taking things seriously, but we haven’t really felt an immense pressure to win. Part of it has been team chemistry and partly coach keeping us from being too stressed out about the game. So, all around [we have] a good attitude on the game.”

Part of relieving the pressure put on the team has been through knowing Cardinal Wuerl NC is a good team — especially with a stat that shows the Trojans have out shot their opponents 145-6 and shutout opponents 18 times during the season. Another big pressure reliever has been how well the team has been working together. According to Smeriglio, the “midfield is working well with both ends of the pitch leading to an efficient team.”

The boys and girls soccer teams have been leaving marks on the history books for Camp Hill, and both will take to the pitch to battle for state crowns, with the girls vying for the first in program history.

“I really couldn’t be more amazed of them and their improvements since last year. It’s nice to see some more Lions putting their names in the record books,” Smeriglio said. “Back-to-back titles would be absolutely incredible. It would cement my grade’s place in [Camp Hill] boys soccer history. The ability to represent our school in this way is such an honor.”

As Smeriglio soaks up the remaining time he has in his senior season, he reflected on what his high school soccer career held. One moment he’ll never forget is the game this season against Trinity on Sept. 19, a game they won 2-1 on the Shamrocks’ senior night. Smeriglio made a one-on-one save with a few minutes remaining and the Lions “ruined their senior night,” according to the goalie.

But with that positive memory comes one thing Smeriglio knows he won’t miss.

“I’ll definitely miss preseason running the least. I’m a goalie for a reason,” Smeriglio said.

The senior has a few colleges in mind to continue his academic and soccer careers, including Drexel, Temple and La Salle academically and Misericordia University and Lebanon Valley College for soccer.

Coach Sheaffer expects Smeriglio to do very well if he decides to play soccer in college, and Smeriglio will undoubtedly never forget the coaches and teammates who pushed that “awful at soccer” kid to do better.

“I would just like to thank my teammates and coaches for pushing me these past four years,” Smeriglio said. “Nothing would be possible without their work on and off the field.

“It’s been a heck of a ride, but it isn’t done yet.”

Email Mallory at mmerda@cumberlink.com or follow her on Twitter @MalloryMerda

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter at The Sentinel.

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