From 2009-11, West Virginia University’s men’s soccer team had an extremely gifted athlete. Ray Gaddis, who now plays professionally for the Philadelphia Union, played in 73 career games and registered and six assists for the Mountaineers. He was someone that his teammates truly looked up to.
This season, there’s a new kid in town and people are already comparing him to Gaddis. The young athlete has big shoes to fill, and he’s only a freshman.Nick Raskasky
, who enrolled early at WVU, said he knows the big responsibility he is undertaking.
“He’s a great athlete,” Raskasky said about Gaddis. “I look up to him. I want to be like that in four years when I graduate. I watch just about every game he plays and try to match his style of play. It does make me kind of nervous when I realized, hey, I’m the freshman filling the void for a professional player.”
The nerves seem to have settled down. On September 23, WVU won its first Mid-American Conference match against Florida Atlantic, and Raskasky had a lot to do with it. He scored the first goal of his career and added another one later as West Virginia won going away, 4-0.
Raskasky fondly looked back on the day, and it’s something he said he’ll remember forever.
“It was insane,” he said. “The ball got to me in such an awkward position; it was almost at my hip. I had no other choice but to throw my thigh at it, as if to volley it. Once I saw it going, it felt like slow motion, but it went in the goal. I was so excited, I didn’t even know what to do.
“When the second one went in at the end of the game, I was just blown away. It was amazing.”
Raskasky believes he made a great decision in enrolling early at WVU. Originally, he was enrolled in community college near his home in Tacoma, Wash. Toward the end of his high school career, he suffered an ACL tear and the offers he previously had received from colleges seemed to disappear.
“When I was enrolled in community college, I was playing for Academy (Seattle Sounders FC Academy). At the time, we went up to a tournament in Florida and the West Virginia coaches came to watch one of the kids on my team play. I had the best game of my life,” Raskasky said with a laugh. “After the game, they came up to me and offered me a spot. They wanted me to move down within the next couple of weeks for the spring to get an upper hand. It definitely helped.”
The idea of traveling across the country to go to school may seem scary to some, but Raskasky took the offer and ran with it. He had not planned on traveling so far, but once he got a feel for the school, it was easy to make the decision to become a Mountaineer.
“When I had to make a decision, I figured a local school was the best option, but after that game, I realized West Virginia was the most prestigious school to offer me. The school is a top-25 soccer program. I love the coaches. I came to visit and I loved the campus and that’s how it all started. It was an easy decision.”
The only downside is being so far away from his family. A non-stop flight from Pittsburgh to Seattle is roughly five and a half hours and it’s almost impossible to get that ticket. Raskasky said his toughest adjustment has been being so far away from his family.
“I went from seeing them every single day to only getting to see them two or three times a year. They’re coming to visit (this week) so I’m excited about that. It’s just hard and expensive to travel across the country.”
Though the homesick blues may come and go, Raskasky feels very comfortable here at WVU. He’s made it his new home, and with new scenery comes new challenges.
At Stadium High in Tacoma, prior to his ACL injury, Raskasky played outside mid and forward. At WVU, he’s playing defense in the right back position. Although it’s a huge difference, he likes where he’s playing now and is just happy to be a part of the team. It’s times like these where watching Ray Gaddis has helped him.
“Changing positions takes getting used to,” he said. “Once you’ve played in the same position for so long, you kind of know where to look and where to go on the field. I watch what Ray does with the ball and try to distribute the same way.”
Raskasky looks back on his high school career and has a lot to show for it; he played on a state championship team in 2007, and he was the Surf Cup champion in 2008. He was a four-year starter in addition to playing for Crossfire Premier Soccer Club and Washington Premier FC. Soccer was, ‘the biggest sport’ back at Stadium High and it had a steady fan base. Raskasky will quickly say, however, that nothing compares to the atmosphere at Dick Dlesk Stadium.
“I went to a pretty big high school, and we had quite a number of people come out to games and we played in a really big stadium. Over here, it’s crazy. When you’re playing for your school and you’ve got that flying WV on your shirt, when you do something good and the crowd realizes it, it’s one of the best feelings.”
Raskasky is looking forward to the rest of the soccer season at WVU. He’s looking forward to playing Akron because a former teammate now plays for that team. Ideally, he’d like to win the MAC title and said that a national championship is always in reach, ‘especially with the squad we have now.’ Personally, he would like to solidify his starting spot and rack up assists off crosses.
The WVU men’s soccer team will face Buffalo at 1 p.m. on October 7 at Dick Dlesk Stadium.