Max Balko single-handedly changed the Starpoint boys soccer team's fortunes last week.
An overtime loss to Williamsville South was followed up with a 1-0 win over St. Francis and a 2-1 win in double overtime over Newfane, with Balko scoring all three goals for the Spartans to capture the Lockport Tournament championship.
The tournament's Most Valuable Player is also the Prep Talk Male Athlete of the Week.
Position: Central attacking midfielder
Coach Zach Trunzo on Balko: "I've coached Max since he was a freshman on JV and I couldn't be more proud of the player and person he's become. On the field, he has accomplished a lot. He won State Cup with FC Buffalo Academy this past summer and won first team all-league honors last year. Despite his outstanding skill on the field, what impresses me most about Max is how great of a role model he is. The kindness and respect he shows to others, along with the leadership and toughness he shows on the field is the perfect blend you want in a player."
How has your season gone so far?: The season started off shaky with a couple losses but we’ve really found a groove as a team and have three straight wins coming out of beating eighth-ranked Sweet Home, 3-0. Personally, I’ve got three goals and two assists.
Highlight of athletic career so far: The highlight of my athletic career was this past summer, when the premier team I played for, FC Buffalo Academy, was named the U18 WNY State Cup Champions and then got to go to regionals in West Virginia. It was awesome to play with the best of the best from around the United States.
Favorite thing about my sport: I’d have to say my favorite thing about soccer is the ability to work with a team. I live for the feeling of jumping into your best friend's arms after a sweet goal or an emotional win. Honestly, nothing beats it. I love the physical aspect of soccer and it has really, throughout my life, given me something to always rely on and go back to.
Favorite teammate: I have so many good friends on the team, but if I have to pick just one I’d have to say it would be Kyle Harrington, the other captain. We’ve been best friends for as long as I can remember and I’ve been playing school and premier soccer with him for the past five-six years now. He’s always there to support me in life and on the field.
Toughest opponent: The toughest opponent we’ve faced this year would have to be East Aurora. They will dominate their league and the main reason is their ability to move the ball so quickly and their attacking players like Bryce Shiltz and Pat Philips.
WNY athlete I looked up to: The athlete I looked up to was former Starpoint player Jake Ratka. He was always such an inspiration to me and always knew just what to say. I’m really missing him this year on the team, but almost all my actions as captain are based off what he had done.
Pro/college athlete I admire now: The college athlete I admire most is also a former Starpoint player, Sam Wagner, who currently plays for Fredonia. He was such a determined and focused guy and so fun to be around. He kept the team well organized and led us into every game with an amazing heart and want to win.
Favorite school subject: Science.
What’s ahead (athletics and/or academics): I’d like to major in biology and minor in english, then go to dental school and become a dentist. It is a pretty rigorous academic path, so I’m still keeping my options open in terms of playing soccer in college.
Coaches can nominate athletes of the week by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Saturday night.