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Golini boys' soccer player of year in S.J.

Rancocas Valley senior Alec Golini has a touch on the soccer ball that is envied, and he literally learned his craft on the streets.

Rancocas Valley senior Alec Golini has a touch on the soccer ball that is envied, and he literally learned his craft on the streets.

Able to keep the ball close to his body and work adeptly in tight quarters, Golini is in total command on the field.

While most people develop a touch while juggling a ball, Golini had a different training technique. He would dribble a ball in the street.

"The ball would skip and slide and move, and it was hard to maintain control," Golini said.

The reasoning was that if one could control the ball on a street, imagine what could occur on a manicured pitch, or better yet, on artificial turf.

In four varsity seasons, despite tight marking, Golini frequently bought himself that extra half-second to uncork a wicked and accurate shot.

His ability to slow the game to a pace only a select few could take part in was a major reason he had such a strong senior season, capping an equally impressive career.

This year, Golini had 17 goals and 16 assists as Rancocas Valley won the area's toughest division title (the Burlco Liberty) along with the South Jersey Soccer Coaches Association Tournament en route to being The Inquirer's No. 1 South Jersey team.

For his performance, Golini has been named The Inquirer's South Jersey player of the year.

Golini was a four-year starter who helped the Red Devils win the state Group 4 title as a junior and capture four consecutive division crowns.

There was a lot of winning, but much more practicing. In fact, that is what has made Golini the player he is.

The midfielder is a tireless worker, whether on the street or a field.

"I take pride in working and practicing, and if you want to go to the next level, you have to improve your game," Golini said.

There will surely be a next level. Golini has made an oral commitment to attend Lafayette.

Opposing teams were often frustrated by Golini's ability to hang onto the ball despite pressure.

"His first touch at speed and the speed he goes is unbelievable," Rancocas Valley coach Damon Petras said. "How he keeps control of the ball is amazing, and he always seems to make the right decision."

It all comes back to having a great touch, and not allowing any ball to stray too far from his feet.

"You can't be a great player, or try to be a great player, and not have a good touch," Golini said.

So, he never has stopped experimenting, trying to make the elusive move a defender hasn't seen before.

That's why, even during water breaks at practice, Golini could be seen weaving around teammates, testing a potential new move that might come in handy.

Golini's career was one of steady progression.

As a freshman, he was a defender, and he moved to the outside midfield as a sophomore.

The last two years, he has been a center midfielder who sometimes moved to forward when the offense needed extra punch.

No matter where he played, the ball was closely by his side.

"He was always looking to improve and picked up different things each year," Petras said.

Golini was named to the all-American team of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, a fitting accolade for the player who always seemed to have the right touch.