Duquesne Soccer Adding a Special Talent in Nathan Dragisich
If you spent time on social media, you’ll find a myriad of athletes that refer to themselves as a ‘humble beast’. Search the hashtag (#humblebeast) on Twitter and prepare yourself to sift through thousands of braggadocios tweets from athletes throughout the country. It’s a moniker that’s often overused and nonapplicable to a large percentage of the athletes using it. If you want to select an athlete truly fitting of the moniker, look no further than 2019 Duquesne soccer commit Nathan Dragisich from West Allegheny High School (Imperial, PA).
John Ruskin once said, “I believe the first test of a truly great man is in his humility.” Dragisich is the ultimate juxtaposition of humility and dominance. Yes, a ‘humble beast’. Standing at 5-foot-8 inches tall and weighing in at 145 pounds, he isn’t physically imposing. If you meet him off the soccer field, he’s a relatively shy, kind, well-mannered, quiet and … humble. When the young man walks onto a soccer field, he transforms into the beast. Dragisich flips the switch and turns into a rare breed of competitor. How dominant was his senior season? Let’s take a look at the post-season accolades. He was named the United Coaches Pennsylvania State Player of the Year, 2018 United Soccer Coaches High School All-American selection, the 2018 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Triblive HSSN and Beaver County Times Soccer player of the year, the 2017 and 2018 WPIAL Player of the Year, a 2018 ECNL (Elite Clubs National League) All-American and Midwest Conference Player of the Year.
Dragisich, a two-time team captain, finished his career as West Allegheny High School’s all-time scoring (86 goals) and assist (56) leader. Although he’s proud of his considerable legacy, nothing makes him happier than winning the Indians first PIAA boys soccer championship. Dragisich saved his best for last. He scored a hat trick and assisted on another goal in a convincing 4-0 victory over Strath Haven High School at Hersheypark Stadium. West Allegheny’s soccer team, led by head coach Kevin Amos, finished the season with an outstanding 23-2 record.
Pittsburgh Sports Now recently spoke with Dragisich about his senior season and future with the Duquesne soccer program.
Why did you ultimately decide to commit to Duquesne?
I’ve been going to their ID (Identification) camps since freshman year and I really liked the coach. I just kept going to those camps and the coach started showing interest in me. It felt a good fit because I wanted to stay close to home for college. It was a great combination, staying close to home and playing for a great coach. A coach that I really liked. It helped that I would get some money as well. Overall it was a perfect fit.
What other schools were recruiting you?
West Liberty. I know West Liberty was pretty interested. I went to the Cleveland state identification camp before too. They were in the mix. Mount Union was pretty interested as well.
Is there a specific position you will be playing at Duquesne?
I’ll probably be playing attacking midfield.
What are your strengths on the soccer field? What makes you stand out as a player?
I think I’m really good at getting into the spots where I can either get the ball or just to finish chances and just score goals. Then I don’t really let anything get to my head. I’m pretty good with always looking for like the next ball and just staying positive about the game even though if I make a bad pass or a bad touch or anything like that. I think my passing has really improved. I’m really good at finding open teammates and finding assists.
You were one of the first players to develop through the training academy with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Soccer Club. How instrumental was that training in your development?
I started playing with the Riverhounds since 2007, which is when they started their whole youth academy development thing and I just been staying with it since then and it’s obviously created the player that I am today. Before it first started it was just only practicing and training. There wasn’t any tournaments or games or anything. Then they started up when I was, I think, either 11 or 12 years old. It’s been nothing but games, tournaments, training and practices ever since. All of it high quality and all it has made me a better player.
You have had the opportunity to play against higher caliber players through your involvement with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. How has that improved your game?
Playing against better players and competition has make me look at how I can get better as a player. It makes you evaluate your game and consider what you need to improve and get better at. I wouldn’t be the player I am today without going against some of the top competition in the country.
Outside of the training you have received with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, what have you done to develop your game? How has your years through the West Allegheny program helped you develop?
I’ve just been going to this place called BRN Fitness where I was getting stronger and faster and just improve that aspect of the game. During the summers my friends and I would just go to the field and just kick around, have fun and practice. It really helps build team chemistry, which is really important to winning.
You had a historic, record breaking senior season. What was it like winning the state championship playing side by side with teammates you essentially have grown up with?
Going into the season we knew that we can be really good and we had been just getting better and better each year since we’ve come up through high school. We knew that this was the year that we needed to win something as a team because we hadn’t done that yet. Our team really wanted to win something of substance. We wanted to be able to look back and remember what we accomplished something. As the season went on, our confidence as a team continued to grow. When we were getting into the playoffs, we knew that it was close and we were going to get there. We ended up winning a state championship. We were all just so relieved and happy we could do it. It was an amazing experience.
You have countless post-season accolades. What was more important to you, the accolades or hoisting that championship trophy over your head?
No doubt, the championship was so much more important. It was so much more worth it. Me and all of my teammates that I grew up with wanted to win it so badly. We wanted to win something as a team and it was just so great to achieve it.
Is there a professional player that you admire? Perhaps a player you model your game after?
There are a lot of professional players that I watch and admire but I wouldn’t say I really tried to play game like them. I just try to play my game to the best of my ability, work on my strengths and improve my weaknesses.
You’re leaving a considerable footprint on the West Allegheny High School soccer program. How often do you think about your legacy? It can easily be argued you’re one of the greatest players to wear an Indians uniform. Do you feel you’re leaving the soccer program in better shape than you found it?
Yeah, it’s always nice to be remembered as one of the greatest and I think that the next few years with the freshman class that was just playing, West Allegheny is going to be very good and they’re going to have a lot of success. I just hope that they can do what we did and get another one, another state championship and just be as good as we were or even better than us.
Do you plan on coming back on breaks and working with the West Allegheny team?
I always think about coming back to watch some games when I’m free once I’m at Duquesne. Since my brother (future soccer standout Johnny Dragisich) plays that’ll make me want to watch them even more and just help them through their experiences and their season.
Let’s talk about your future at Duquesne. What are some of your short- and long-term plans
Well, I’d obviously want to get some good playing time as a freshman and just try to keep improving and hopefully I can get a starting position in one of my earlier years at Duquesne. I’m just going to try to work hard to achieve that.
You have attended hours upon hours of camps, practices and games. The travel, at times, seemed insurmountable. What role did your family play in your success?
Through the early years, especially the years I was unable to drive, my family drove me to everything. I mean they’ve been taking me to everything, games, practices, camps and letting me continue to improve my game. They took me to tournament after tournament and those drives are long drives and they always stuck with me through the ups and the downs and they were always there for me. My dad played a big role into helping me with contacting college coaches and helping me develop my highlight tapes. He helped me a lot with that. It’s been nice having my family with me every step of this journey. I knew I always had someone to look to and provide help when necessary.
Your father Brent ran cross country for Duquesne and continues to run to this day. Who’s the better athlete, Nathan or Brent Dragasich?
I am, definitely.
Guru note: I have primarily covered Pitt athletics for nearly two decades. Throughout the years, I have developed close relationships with a large number of Pitt players and their parents. It’s unique to be interviewing a player whose father also happens to be one of my closest friends. Duquesne is adding more than a special soccer player, it’s adding a special family. Nathan’s father Brent (a former standout cross country runner at Duquesne), mother Malinda and siblings Johnny (a budding soccer star) and Tiffany (future gymnastics star) are like family to me. Nathan Dragisich’s success has nothing to do with luck. It’s exactly what when you combine a stellar work ethic, Malcom Gladwell’s’10,000 hours of practice’ and the love of an amazing family.
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru