On Friday, a day after Sacred Heart senior soccer star Nick Gazzara was killed in a car accident, his coach lauded him for his talent, personality and leadership.

Mario Monfardini, who just completed his first season as head coach at Sacred Heart, spoke eloquently about a young man he said it was a privilege to coach and to know.

"Once he got to practice, it took on a different type of feeling," Monfardini said. "Kids looked up to him not only because he was a great player, but with how hard he worked at practice."

State police say that Gazzara, 18, lost control of his car on the snow-covered Route 54 in Buena Vista and collided with an oncoming truck. He was not wearing a seat belt, police said.

Gazzara was a prolific goal scorer, with 42 his senior year. He was named an Inquirer second-team all-South Jersey selection.

"The 42 goals spoke for itself how great a soccer player he was," Monfardini said. "When you are around the kid all day you realize he was an even better person."

According to Sacred Heart athletic director Keith Jones, there was a prayer service and a memorial mass Friday at the school.

"We at Sacred Heart are saddened by the loss of one of our family," Jones said. "Our prayers have gone out and are going out to the Gazzara family and to all the friends of Nick."

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225