Sports Person of the Week
Zanzalari Brings Grit to the Pitch
Center midfielder Zach Zanzalari wore the captain’s hat for the Knights as a junior and is reprising his role as a captain during his senior season this fall. (Photo courtesy of Zach Zanzalari )
Zach Zanzalari is the heart and soul of the Westbrook High School boys’ soccer squad. What started out as a Saturday morning activity for Zach as a kindergartner turned into a great passion for the sport. Now, Zach is a senior who’s in his second season leading the Knights as a captain from the center midfielder position.
“When I moved to Westbrook in the 2nd grade, I joined the travel soccer team through park and recreation,” says Zach. “A few years later, I joined a Premier soccer team and have been playing club soccer ever since, in addition to playing at the high school.”
Westbrook recently kicked off the 2020 season after finishing with a record of 6-9-1 last fall. One of Zach’s favorite memories from his junior year came when Westbrook earned a 2-1 win over Valley Regional—a team that the Knights hadn’t defeated in several seasons.
“My favorite moment from last season was going on the road as the underdog against Valley and rallying as a team to win the matchup for the first time in years,” Zach says. “The team really stepped up and fought for each other. That win brought us together and helped lay the foundation for us moving forward.”
Like many soccer players, Zach enjoys scoring goals and creating offensive opportunities for his squad. He also likes the team aspect of soccer and appreciates all the bonds that he’s made with his teammates.
“My favorite part about soccer is competing as a team,” says Zach. “I love the bond you forge with your brothers on and off the field.”
Derek Hanssen is in his debut season as Westbrook’s head coach after having served as an assistant during Zach’s first three years with the team. Hanssen says that Zach is a focal point of the Knights’ offense and does a great job of facilitating the attack.
“Zach is a very intelligent player with a great knowledge of the game. He is a strong leader and has served as a team captain for the last two seasons,” says Hanssen. “Although he is smaller in stature, Zach plays well above his size. He is tough and willing to take on any challenge on the field.”
Zach has enjoyed working with Coach Hanssen during the past few seasons. Zach feels that Hanssen is making a smooth transition into the head coach’s role since everyone on the team was already familiar with him.
“Coach Hanssen is currently in his first year as head coach of our squad, but we have a unique relationship with him as he has been our assistant coach all through high school,” Zach says. “This has given us an opportunity to have a lot of open communication because, in the past, we would bring our ideas and issues to him and talk them out before bringing them to the head coach.”
Zach’s love for soccer motivates him to focus on the sport on a year-round basis. In addition to playing at the Premier level, Zach works on his soccer skills by attending various camps and skill sessions.
“I get a lot of touches on the ball at home,” says Zach. “I have attended numerous soccer skills sessions and camps. I have also been playing Premier soccer for years, which has greatly helped me to hone my skills.”
Off the pitch, Zach likes to go fishing and play pickup basketball with his friends. Zach is member of the National Honor Society at Westbrook High School and has also earned an Eagle Scout Award.
Zach says that it’s hard to define the expectations for Westbrook’s season with all the contingencies that have stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic. More than anything, Zach just wants the Knights to enjoy the time that they spend together on the soccer pitch.
“As a team, we are trying to make the most of our season and leave it all out on the field each game,” Zach says. “Especially as seniors, we just appreciate the opportunity to enjoy our final year together and are approaching things one game at a time.”