Image courtesy of Catholicathletics.com
By Jared Prenda
Mike Narzikul, a senior strategy, management, and operations major, has made the most of his experience at the Catholic University of America. Most people only know him as one of the four members of the elite back line for the 21st nationally ranked CUA Men’s Soccer team. The Delaware County, Pennsylvania native has more to offer, such as his love of the NBA’s 76ers and his drive to compete at every level.
Narzikul was destined to attend Catholic University, as his older sister and brother-in-law were members of the graduating class of 2010. Narzikul, known as Narz on campus, felt that CUA was his natural fit and saw an opportunity to grow closer with his sister through that bond.
“My sister went here, she played lacrosse here so I’ve been coming here since I was eight years old,” said Narzikul. “I wanted to be by a city so this was just a natural fit. The two and a half hour drive is nice; it’s really nice for my parents too so they can come down and watch the games.”
Outside of his family’s history with Catholic, Narz knew that he wanted to attend college in a city where he would always have something to do. D.C. was ideal for him as it provided him the opportunity to not only explore the plethora of monuments and museums, but the culture and night life of the city, even with the stringent 48-hour sobriety rule applied to all the school’s athletes.
“I knew I wanted to play, I wanted to have a schedule and stay competitive but I also wanted to be near a city so I would have something to do on a Friday when I’m bored and don’t have class, and D.C. is the place to be for that,” Narzikul said. “Friday nights during the season we [the team] try to go downtown and do movie nights in Chinatown since we can’t go out.”
Narzikul has always been an adaptable player for the team, as he started his career playing as a forward wing before transitioning to an outside defensive back in his sophomore year. For most players, this would be a challenging switch— from an attacking position to a defensive one— but Narzikul credits his versatility to his high school career at Malvern Preparatory Academy in Malvern, Pennsylvania. In his senior season, Narzikul played 10 of 11 positions as well as playing on the basketball team.
“I played wing freshman year and now I play outside back. With regards to defense the big thing probably comes from basketball, just keeping your man in front of you and moving your feet,” he said. “Philly is a good area for basketball so I played against kids who went Division I every game which helped me out now.”
The men’s soccer team has achieved its highest ranking in program history this season, peaking at 10th in Division III according to the United Soccer Coaches Association’s top 25 poll. This comes only three years after finishing at the bottom of the Landmark Conference. The Cardinals now sit alone atop the conference table with a perfect 5-0 record. All of this has been important for Narzikul as he can see the physical growth both he and his teammates have gone through since his freshman year. He also uses the team’s experience at the bottom of the barrel to further enjoy his time at the top.
“We were the punching bag and everyone got their punches in and now we’re the ones punching back,” said Narzikul. “It’s nice playing with the same group of guys because they’re more than just teammates, they’re guys I grew up with. We came here when we were 18 and we’ve now lived on our own for three years. It’s just funny and we always laugh about where we came from to where we are now.”
Narzikul has been an integral part of the team’s rising success throughout his career. He has been named First Team All Landmark both his sophomore and junior seasons, and is a likely lock for another selection this year.
Head coach Travis Beauchamp has been very impressed by his senior leader, and has named him to the team’s leadership council every year since his sophomore year. The council is in lieu of captains and acts as a way for each class to have an equal voice and representation.
“Narz has been great for us. You need a guy like him in the locker room,” said Beauchamp. “He’s intense and emotional and holds his teammates accountable. At times that can be tough to deal with but he wants to win and the other guys feed off of that.”
Narzikul plans on returning to Philadelphia after graduating in May to be back with his family with whom he is very close. His plan is to stay with athletics by coaching summer camps and club soccer teams in his native city.
But that will wait until May— for now, his focus is on capturing the elusive Landmark Conference title which the team came up just short of with a 1-0 loss to Elizabethtown in the championship game last year.