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Canyon's Niko Nuyda sticks by his team

Goalkeeper has been with team through ups and downs

Posted: February 9, 2014 10:00 p.m.
Updated: February 9, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Despite Canyon's mixed results, the senior goalkeeper is as reliable as they come.

 

Niko Nuyda was there when Canyon soccer was a powerhouse in the Santa Clarita Valley.

He was there when things went south after the team was penalized for a CIF violation.

He stuck around when the team changed coaches and fell to the bottom of the Foothill League standings.

Nuyda is still there. And he never even thought about leaving in his four years as the team’s varsity goalkeeper.

“It feels very rewarding,” Nuyda says. “I’m one of the leaders. I feel like I have a very strong presence to my team. I hope they all look up to me and I return the favor to them.”

In a very real way, Nuyda’s loyalty is rewarding him in the form of college soccer scholarship offers.

The 17-year-old has yet to finalize his choice, but he’s earned the chance to play at the next level with four years of work and persistence.

“He’s come a long way from being the kid that was wide-eyed and looked like he was pretty nervous when he went into goal. I still remember the first time we went into goal there,” says Canyon head coach Lou Aguilera, who was the school’s freshman coach when Nuyda was in ninth grade.

At that point, Canyon was coming off three straight league titles and was again one of the area’s top teams.

Nuyda was pulled up to play in goal after the starting varsity and JV keepers went down with injuries.

Since then, Nuyda hasn’t given up the job.

“He has this willingness to achieve the impossible as a player and he’s humble about it,” says Victor Caceres, Nuyda’s goalkeeping trainer. “He truly plays the game with honor.”

It hasn’t all been happy days at Canyon High through the years.

It was right around this time of year two years ago when the Canyon team called together during a practice.

Nuyda, a sophomore at the time, said he had a feeling something was wrong.

The coaching staff delivered the news that would end up derailing Canyon’s promising season and change the course of the program.

Canyon had inadvertently allowed an ineligible player to participate in games earlier in the season, which violated a CIF rule and forced the team to forfeit most of its Foothill League wins.

As a result, the league-championship contending Canyon team finished the league season 2-8 and out of the playoff picture.

“There’s no blaming anything or anyone but it was very saddening,” Nuyda remembers of hearing the news. “It was a very bad day that day.”

The Canyon soccer program would have won league that year, but instead it saw its run of success end very suddenly.

But years later, a player like Nuyda can look back and call it all a defining moment for him personally and athletically.

The following season, Canyon finished 2-13-3 overall, 0-9-1 in the Foothill League for last place.

So far this year, Canyon is 6-8-6 overall and 1-4-3 in league. Some of the same struggles have continued under Aguilera in his second year as head coach.

And yet here Nuyda is. He’s as competitive as ever and he still badly wants his team to get back to its old, winning ways.

“I’m really big on never quitting,” Nuyda says. “The reason why I haven’t switched schools or anything was because I was taught my first year by my coaches and staff to play with pride and that’s always stuck with me. The level of pride just stuck with me as soon as I heard it.”

And the senior plays with a lot of skill too.

In his high school career, Nuyda has stopped 19 penalty kick attempts. They’re his specialty.

He has a knack for reading players and knowing which direction they intend to kick. He’s also able to use his instincts and athletic skill to stop any shots coming his way.

“You’ve got to have a little screw loose to want to play keeper because you’re going for balls where most people will be kicking you in the face,” Aguilera says.

But for everything Nuyda’s withstood in his high school career, there isn’t much that can faze him.

He doesn’t regret a minute of it.

“With everything that went on these past few years I have learned a lot,” Nuyda says. “I’m really proud of how far I’ve come, but yeah, its mainly been a big honor to represent my school this long.”

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