Senior captain Palmer leads the varsity soccer team in successful 9-5 season
Masterfully guiding the ball with a delicate touch, Walter Johnson High School senior Andreas Serafini cuts through player after player, building up such momentum that the large crowd at Blazer Stadium on Sept 21 begins to get restless. Serafini sets himself up for a shot, and for a second the crowd is on edge.
Suddenly, Blair senior sweeper Zack Palmer swoops in with his characteristically impeccable timing, stripping the ball from Serafini almost effortlessly. This was the theme Palmer defended against the Wildcats that night.
Palmer's heart-stopping defense is almost routine for any Blair boys' soccer match. Head coach Adrian Baez praises Palmer for his dependability. "Zack is always there when we need him, always at the last second, but oh man does he give me heart attacks sometimes," he says.
When Blair played Walter Johnson, ranked third in the metro area by The Washington Post at the time, the whole team rose to the occasion and upset the defending state champions in overtime, 2-1. Senior Mario Bracamontes feels that Palmer proved then that he was an integral part of the team. "Zack just held us together that night," he says. "He gave us the confidence we needed to upset such a competitive opponent. He managed to keep his cool throughout [the game] and really set the pace of our play."
Palmer recently proved his importance to his team when he did what most sweepers in the county have not accomplished. Zack tapped in the winning goal in the last minutes against Richard Montgomery High School on Sept 23 at Blazer Stadium. "He is just one of those clutch players that few teams are lucky to have. Whenever we need him to step up, he always seems to pull through," junior Andrew Shoenfeld says.
Leader of the pack
In his junior year, Palmer was named Most Valuable Player, and this year he was elected one of the four captains along with Shoenfeld, and seniors Eliot Stein and Kodjo Gnatiko.
Baez feels that Palmer's presence is invaluable to the team. He compares Palmer to Franz Beckenbauer, who is considered one of the most talented players in soccer history. "[Palmer] is one of those players a coach can just depend on in any situation. He has great confidence in his skill, and his poise is one of his greatest assets," Baez says. "I think he deserves athlete of the year."
Palmer is ranked as the seventh best player in the county and was also named Second Team All-State. Palmer will play in the County All-Star game on Nov 19 at UMBC.
Palmer is not the average jock; he has earned a cumulative unweighted GPA of 3.2. "Zack is an incredibly hard worker on the soccer field as well as with academics," says assistant coach and physics teacher Rick Moats. "I always see him working his hardest to get as much as he can out of school, and there is not a kid that I respect more than Zack."
Palmer is also known for his unique personality on the field. "The special thing about Zack is his big heart," says Baez. "It seems like he enjoys life and soccer so much. Whenever he feels a referee's call is questionable, unlike any other player who would get in the ref's face, Zack just puts a smile on his face and plays his game. Life goes on."
From New York to Florida
Palmer currently plays for one of Maryland's best club teams, Montgomery Soccer Club (MSC) United, which competes in the top division of the metro area's most prestigious league, National Capital Soccer League (NCSL). Since the seventh grade, Palmer has traveled along the East Coast with MSC, playing tournaments in New York, North Carolina, Florida and Virginia.
Recently, the head coach of the University of Maryland men's soccer team, Sasho Cirovski, attended a game at Springbrook High School to watch Palmer play. A number of other colleges with competitive soccer teams have noticed Palmer's talent at tournaments and have followed up by contacting him and watching him play for Blair. "I think it's great that people have noticed me," Palmer said. "I love playing soccer, and it would be great to play it at a competitive college level at a good school."
Moats echoes what many have said about this extraordinary athlete. "I think that I could easily say that he is one of the best athletes and hardest working kids I have ever coached," he says, "and I have had state champs."
Lincoln Fischer. Senior sports writer Lincoln Fischer was born in Manhattan, New York on May 1st 1985. He presently lives in Takoma Park with his mother, father and sister. His father, Craig, is an editor for Pace Publications, which produces a number of newsletters related to criminal … More »