Ben Nacht was ten years old when the club soccer team he was playing for needed a new goalie. He volunteered.
Nacht assumed it would last a few games. He’d spend some time in net, hopefully stop a few shots and not do anything embarrassing before he was back on the field and scoring goals again. He was wrong. Nacht never left the net and now, in his senior season at Half Hollow Hills West, he knows it’s the best decision he’s ever made.
Nacht loves playing goalkeeper and he’s learned how to play it well.
He posted his 27th career shutout at Hills West on Oct. 16, as the Colts topped East Islip 1-0, and has his sights set on a return to the state championship this season.
“It’s a lot of pressure, knowing you can make one mistake that could potentially blow a game, but I love it,” said Nacht, who boasts seven shutouts and 49 saves this season. “I like being in the spotlight. I pick that stuff up in big moments.”
Nacht has started every game at Hills West since his sophomore season, 55 straight, and his shutouts are a major part of his 38 career victories.
Nacht takes a technical approach to goal keeping. He analyzes the game as it’s being played in front of him, working angles and doing his best to take away shooting lanes.
He’s not afraid to come off his line, determined to get the best of his opponent before they can do the same to him. Nacht thrives on control and being a goalkeeper offers him that opportunity. He doesn’t often waste it.
“At the high school level there’s a lot of free kicks and corners and throw-ins and that’s how a lot of teams score,” Nacht said. “For me, it's about awareness and controlling the box. That’s a thing that I’m pretty big on.”
Nacht’s aggressive mentality in net hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates.
He’s vocal between the pipes, directing defenders and pointing out opposing offensive schemes. Nacht loves the spotlight and the pressure, but he loves being a leader even more and Hills West responds every time he barks out an order.
“The kids really listen to him,” Colts coach Doug Gannon said. “He’s very consistent in and out. He’s been doing this his whole life.”
Nacht’s confidence is catching. He believes he’s going to make every save and that certainly makes it easy for his teammates to trust him.
“He knows how good he is and he really wants to win,” said centerback Luke Bloom, who also plays with Nacht on the Brentwood-Arsenal club team. “He wants to lead us and help us. That’s my favorite thing about him.”
Nacht does, of course, feel some of the pressure he loves. He gets nervous, worries about coming up short and letting his team down, but he said this season he’s using that as motivation. He was told the Hills West shutout record is 28 games, by Alexander Aurrichio from 2005 to 2007, and he’s determined to make his mark on Colts history before the season ends.
“I take a lot of pride in my shutouts,” said Nacht, who is looking at several Division III schools. “It’s a lot of hard work and I’ve been fortunate to play with some great defenses, so I really want that.”
Nacht didn’t realize he was making a life-altering decision when he was ten years old, but it’s one he wouldn’t change for anything. Now, as Hills West looks to make another deep playoff run, Nacht has one thing on his mind — a championship.
Hills West came up short of a state crown last year, falling to Rochester McQuaid Jesuit on penalty kicks in the AA final, and, in his last year in high school, Nacht refuses to accept anything except a title.
“We definitely had a lot of good chemistry on the team last year and I think that’s carried over,” Nacht said. “I really want to get back to the state tournament.”