Vinny Tasca’s path to becoming an All-American soccer goal-keeper is the classic story — common not just to sports but many other endeavors: the emergency fill-in who, more or less by accident, finds his niche with the team, company, business, organization, etc.
For Tasca, it occurred when he was 11. The regular goalkeeper didn’t show up for a game, the coach asked him if he would play the position, and Tasca said, “Sure.”
“I made a lot of saves in the game,” he remembers, “so the coach asked me if I wanted to stay in as goalie, and I said yes.”
It was a fortuitous decision, not only for Tasca, but for Wilmington University.
By the summer after his junior year at Methacton High School (Eagleville, Pennsylvania), Tasca had grown to his full 6 feet, 5 inches, and was playing club ball in a tournament at the YSC sports complex in Wayne, Pennsylvania. That’s where WilmU Coach Nick Papanicolas, who was coaching another team in the tournament, noticed him. Papanicolas asked to be introduced to Tasca, the two talked, and soon afterward “Coach Nick” offered the young goalkeeper a scholarship.
Since Tasca didn’t start at Methacton until his senior year, he had not received any college offers at that point, and he jumped at the chance to come to Wilmington.
Says Papanicolas: “I saw potential that day, and once he arrived at WilmU, he worked to get better every day.”
Under former Goalkeeper Coach Greg Cope, Tasca steadily improved, starting seven games as a freshman, becoming the full-time goalkeeper his sophomore year, earning a berth on the All-East Region and All-CACC teams his junior year, and finishing his college career in 2018 by being named Conference Goalkeeper of the Year and first-team All-American.
Now, he’s pursuing a professional soccer career, hoping to play the game he loves for a living. Which is not surprising to Coach Nick.
“Vinny is a tremendous person with a great work ethic because of the values instilled in him by his mother and by his grandparents, who helped to raise him,” says Papanicolas. “All we did was give him the atmosphere to grow as a player and person and then set the stage for him to perform and showcase his skills.”
Tasca is the first to acknowledge the support he received from his mother, Denise, a physical therapist, and his grandparents. “My grandparents definitely played a huge part in my life, as well as so many other family members who helped my mom out while she worked all the time to support my sister and me. My mom always made sure she was at my games and practices, even working two jobs sometimes.”
As for his development as a player, both Tasca and Papanicolas credit Cope with honing his goalkeeping skills. The manager of Admissions Services for the University, Cope is taking a break from coaching, but he says Tasca was one of the best he saw in his 20 years of working with goalkeepers.
I think we had the best fields and [sports] complex. And the team was really close, we all hung out together, and I got to meet people from other countries and learn about other cultures.”
“Vinny was athletic and good when he was a senior in high school, and when he came here he was an incredible kid to work with,” Cope says. “Anything I showed him, he worked and worked and worked to put that skill into his game. The development until his senior year was unreal. In fact, he should’ve been Goalkeeper of the Year twice, but he got edged out his junior year.”
Tasca, who earned a degree in Sports Management, describes his WilmU experience as “awesome.”
“It’s not your traditional college with dorm rooms and campus and everything, but our sports facilities were very good compared to other teams in our conference. I think we had the best fields and [sports] complex. And the team was really close, we all hung out together, and I got to meet people from other countries and learn about other cultures.
“I also really appreciate Coach Nick and Coach Cope and everything they did for me to play on after college. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without their guidance.”
Tasca is continuing to work on his game as he moves into a pro career. As with all aspects of life in 2020, COVID-19 affected his plans. After graduating in 2019, he caught on with a National Independent Soccer Association team in Charlotte, North Carolina, but last spring, COVID hit, and NISA shut down. Tasca then signed with the Austin (Texas) Bold of the USL Championship league as a back-up goalkeeper for the last nine games of the team’s season. In his lone start, against Kansas City II, he recorded a 4-0 shutout.
With the off-season, Tasca moved to Bluffton, South Carolina, with his girlfriend, Brianna Cunha, also a 2019 grad who played volleyball at WilmU. He’s working at Dick’s Sporting Goods and spending many hours each week on Bluffton playing fields, concentrating on drills that will increase his agility and quickness.
He’s currently without a team, but he hopes to hear soon about new opportunities from his agents, ProConnect Soccer. After his pro career is over, Tasca hopes to stay connected with sports, perhaps as a coach. With his degree in Sports Management, and the examples set by Papanicolas and Cope, his chances of success are excellent.