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updated: 8/30/2012 5:12 PM

Leadership fits Warren's Szczepanek

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  • Warren's Daniel Szczepanek, middle, is mobbed by teammates Alex Buvala, left and Leon Mardehow after Szczepanek's second goal of last season's North Suburban Conference title game against visiting Round Lake.

       Warren's Daniel Szczepanek, middle, is mobbed by teammates Alex Buvala, left and Leon Mardehow after Szczepanek's second goal of last season's North Suburban Conference title game against visiting Round Lake.
    STEVE LUNDY | Staff Photographer

 
By Rusty Silber
Daily Herald Correspondent

Recently, Warren was selling a lot of its old soccer jerseys.

Daniel Szczepanek made sure he snatched up every No. 9 that was available.

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It's the jersey number that the Blue Devils senior has worn since it was handed off to him by former Warren star Thiago Ganancio, a 2010 graduate who's playing at DePaul.

"He was the goal scorer and playmaker when I was a freshman. He was a senior," Szczepanek said. "He always told me to work hard out there."

At the team banquet following the 2009 soccer season, Ganancio gave a speech and left his jersey to someone who he thought deserved it.

"At the very end, he pointed at me to take his No. 9," Szczepanek said. "I've worn it ever since. He was the leader that I looked up to. As a freshman, I didn't have a leadership role. I was a small guy and (the seniors) told me what to do. Now, this year, it's my time to be a leader and teach other players what they need to do."

Szczepanek has tried to lead by example on the field. The durable midfielder has missed only one match, which was the first game of his freshman year.

During his first two years, Szczepanek totaled 10 goals and 12 assists. He then had a breakout campaign last fall, recording 20 goals and 22 assists.

"He's one of the hardest-working players that I've seen in my time here," Warren coach Jason Ahonen said. "He practices the way that he plays. He comes from a family that expects him to do well, and he does."

Earlier this summer, Szczepanek made one of the biggest decisions of his life when he made verbal commitment to play Division I soccer for Marquette University, which competes in the Big East.

He will follow in the footsteps of former Blue Devils player Anthony Colaizzi.

"My dad (Dariuz) wanted me to think about it for a while," Szczepanek said. "I wanted to go there from the start. It's close to home and I'll get a good education. When I went for a visit, the coaches liked me and I liked the coaches. It all seemed to fit into place."

With his college choice in the rearview mirror, Szczepanek can concentrate on leading Warren to another successful season. Last fall, the Blue Devils finished fourth in Class 3A.

"If I were still deciding on college, I would be focusing on college," Szczepanek said. "Now that I have college out of the way, I can focus on high school and finish what we started last year.

"I always like to build off the year before," he added. "This year, I want to do the same if not better. I have to take on more of a leadership role because we lost some key leaders."

Szczepanek plays mainly in the midfield for the Blue Devils. When matches get tight, and especially late, the ball is typically at his feet.

"Having an (captain's) armband doesn't mean I'm a leader," Szczepanek said. "I have to be a leader on and off the field. I need players to look up to me and respect me."

Rest assured, the team captain will be looking for the Blue Devils' next No. 9.

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