Goalkeeper Kowalski is one part Hawk, one part United - Albuquerque Journal

Goalkeeper Kowalski is one part Hawk, one part United

Volcano Vista High senior goalkeeper Evan Kowalski puts the ball back into play during a match last week against visiting St. Pius. Kowalski has been a netminder for the Hawks since his freshman season. (Mike Sandoval for the Journal)

Evan Kowalski might be the busiest prep soccer player in New Mexico this fall.

He’s got one toe in the Volcano Vista pool, as the Hawks starting goalkeeper. He’s got the other toe dipped in the New Mexico United Academy pool, as one of that squad’s netminders.

“The Academy has been amazing. The training, the coaching, has just been fantastic for me,” said Kowalski, a four-year ‘keeper at Volcano Vista. “It’s allowed me to grow as a player. But I felt like high school also allowed me to grow, playing for my high school and for my team.”

Kowalski has been splitting time in net with both entities since the prep season began.

Kowalski started in goal for Volcano Vista in a 3:30 p.m. home game on Sept. 14 against St. Pius. At halftime, he packed up and made the long hike to the United’s training facility at Mesa del Sol for a 5 o’clock Academy practice.

On the same day he played against St. Pius, Evan Kowalski left after halftime of that game to attend one of New Mexico United Academy’s training sessions at its Mesa del Sol complex. (Mike Sandoval for the Journal)

“I don’t know if he’s taking into account that he’s doing so much,” said Peter Davis, the goalkeeping coach for both New Mexico United’s USL squad and its Academy roster. “Because he just loves it so much. He enjoys doing soccer 24-7.”

Kowalski has been training with the NMU Academy since February. He splits time in net with another Volcano Vista goalkeeper, Andres Vela Saenz, who has been working exclusively with the Academy team.

The Academy has lured many of the metro area’s top talents since its inception, and in fact one of its first players, forward Cristian Nava from Albuquerque High, recently signed his first professional contract.

“Everyone with me is at a high level, they’re intense training sessions,” Kowalski said. “It allows me to grow, and it’s helped me develop a lot.”

One of the caveats for Kowalski is managing his overall game total, because any games he plays for the New Mexico United Academy team outside of high school counts toward his overall total as defined by the New Mexico Activities Association. He cannot exceed 20 during the regular season, or else he would be ineligible to compete in the high school postseason, if Volcano Vista is selected for the Class 5A playoffs.

But Kowalski is determined to perform this balancing act and make sure both his teams are getting his full attention.

“He always wants to question and ask what he can do to get better, or sharpen up on certain things,” Davis said. “As a coach, that’s something you love to have, because it shows he’s eager. … He’s a very talented goalkeeper and he’ll do very well when he moves on to the college level.”

Kowalski, a senior, said he hasn’t yet decided on a college.

“When you see Evan on the field, the communication, the body language he shows are super important,” Davis said. “It shows confidence and gives confidence to the players in front of him. His presence is something that is really special at that age.”

Kowalski has appeared in seven games so far this season for Volcano Vista (5-3 with two losses to metro champ Sandia); he has a 1.94 goals-against average. He has played in four matches for the NMU Academy, including one of their two games in Tucson over the weekend.

“We’ve all been dreaming about a chance like this since we were younger,” Kowalski said. “We’re blessed to have this high level of soccer in New Mexico.”

At Volcano Vista, Kowalski said his Hawks teammates have had his back.

“They’ve been supportive of me through the whole journey,” he said.

So has the Academy; Davis recounts one story of Kowalski coming out to Mesa del Sol for just 20 minutes of training before leaving for a Volcano Vista commitment.

“His priority and dedication is about soccer,” Davis said. “He loves it.”

Hawks coach Billy Thiebaut believes Kowalski has enough influence in frame to give the Hawks a chance at a trophy in November.

“If Evan is around,” he said, “I think we can be in the hunt for things.”

And Evan will be around; he’s logging the miles between Volcano Vista and the NMU facility all with a specific end game in mind.

“I hope to make it to the highest level possible,” the 5-foot-11 Kowalski said. “I want to develop at college even more and make it to the pro level, that’s my goal.”


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