Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Man Between the Posts Brings Big-Save Ability to Hoyas

He thought he might study ecology at Humboldt State in Arcata, Calif. He thought he might, as he puts it, “go live in the forest or something like that.” But junior Mark Wilber decided to play goalkeeper at Georgetown University – something that has made Head Coach Brian Wiese and the men’s soccer team very happy.

Wilber may have been half-joking about living in the forest – but regardless, Wiese affirms that Wilber is a man of many interests.

“[He is an] incredibly diverse, incredibly interesting kid,” Wiese says.

He can keep the ball out of the net, too.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound goalkeeper first started playing soccer at the age of six back in his hometown of Albuquerque, N.M. His mother, a former soccer player herself, was the one who encouraged him to play.

“Playing in the field was my first love,” Wilber says. “Then one day, our coach came to practice with a goalie jersey and gloves. I just wanted to wear the jersey, so I put it on. Turns out I liked it.”

Wilber did not start playing goalie full-time until just before he entered high school. Looking back, it appears to have been a wise decision.

When he has played this year, Wilber’s performance has been immaculate. In four starts, he has recorded four shutouts. Last weekend [he blanked both Villanova and Rutgers at home](, earning Big East goalkeeper of the week honors – but he isn’t letting it get to his head.

“It was really cool to get the award, but I think it’s a bit nearsighted,” Wilber says. “Without my back four, those shutouts wouldn’t happen. It’s more of a team award in my opinion.”

Wilber’s humility is less noticeable on the field.

“He came to camp here the summer before his senior year [of high school], and he just smashed right into poor kids,” Wiese says. “He was unbelievable. He’s very aggressive, incredibly hardworking and brave.”

Wilber and his coach share uncanny commonalities – commonalities that played a key role in the keeper’s enrollment at Georgetown. Both are alumni of Albuquerque Academy, where Wilber played high school soccer under Head Coach Will Steadman. Steadman and Wiese’s older brother happen to be great friends and used to play soccer with and against each other as youths and in college.

One day, Wiese got a call from Steadman.

“I don’t know if you need a goalie,” Steadman said at the time. “But I’ve got a kid who makes saves

that you talk about for a week.”

And so it was. Wilber left Albuquerque and traveled cross-country to Washington, D.C., hoping to man the pipes for the Hoyas.

While thrilled to be on the Hilltop, Wilber has had to work for his opportunities since his arrival, which have – at times – been few and far between. Redshirted his freshman year, Wilber trained but watched every game from the sidelines. The following season, he finally made his way onto the pitch, sharing time with incumbent and fellow junior goalkeeper Matt Brutto. Wilber started eight games in 2008, going 3-4-1 with two shutouts, including a nine-save overtime performance against Rutgers.

There is no doubt that he wants to play every game, but even Wilber himself recognizes the consequences of having two elite goalies on the same squad.

“You have to prepare for each game thinking you’re going to play,” Wilber says. “But the fact is, some games are better suited for me, and some are better suited for Matt.”

As for the man behind the curtain, Wiese is continually forced to grapple with decisions about Wilber’s playing time on a game-to-game basis. He is the first to admit that it isn’t always fun to do.

“We have two really good goalkeepers. . Honestly, we’re guessing a bit from game to game,” Wiese says. “We knew going in that we had recruited two keepers who can win us a national championship. It’s always difficult to have to sit one of them.”

Wiese recognizes that there are certain game situations that tailor to Wilber’s style.

“If it’s a game where we might need a couple special saves, Wilber’s our guy,” he says. “When the game is more about management and organization, that’s Matty [Brutto]’s strength.”

In fact, the match against Villanova last Friday originally belonged to Brutto. Then he came down with bronchitis.

“I didn’t have to worry about who was playing and who wasn’t,” Wiese says. “That was the best night of sleep I had all week.”

Wilber stepped in and made seven saves, including two jaw-droppers.

“He had the game of his life against Villanova,” Wiese says.

Perhaps Wilber’s only better performance of the year was his shutout against perennial national powerhouse UCLA. [The Hoyas defeated the Bruins 2-0]( on North Kehoe Field on Sept. 6.

“That game was sick – definitely the best moment of my college career so far,” Wilber says.

With Wilber in goal, the Hoyas feel safe.

“He goes out there thinking, `Bring it on. You shoot it, I’ll save it,'” Wiese says. “He’s our security blanket.”

With all due respect to Humboldt State and the California forest, Wilber’s decision to travel east and protect Georgetown’s net has turned out to be the right one. “

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