Primack and Nyenka take on leadership roles for Holy Cross football

Like most athletes, Holy Cross sophomore goaltender Taylor Primack has role models who inspired her to play her chosen sport. For Primack, those players are Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd, who both played on the US 2015 Women’s World Cup squad.

Unlike most college athletes, however, Primack waited until 4th grade to start playing football competitively. The love for the game came almost instantly, with Primack going all-in after the women’s team won the World Cup in 2015.

Primack has been a goalie for most of her sports career, realizing she loved the job from her first game in net.

“I love flying through the air…I love rushing to take a 1-on-1 girl, throwing myself in front of the ball and being able to guide my back line,” she said.

Primack is only a sophomore, but she started in goal both years for Holy Cross, recording 24 starts in 24 games. While some might be nervous about starting a freshman, Primack was ready.

“I kind of knew what it was going to be, but for me it didn’t change anything,” she said. “I’m never going to sit here and say, oh that’s good enough just because I’m starting, just because I’m playing.”

While there have been some adjustments to the college game (Primack says his biggest adjustment has been the change in intensity and speed), Primack has had a solid first year at net. In her 16 starts, she faced 124 shots, allowing only 14 goals for an 88.7% save percentage. She recorded eight total shutouts (a school record) and was 8-4-2.

The performance was good enough to get her into the second team of all CCAC conferences.

Primack has maintained a good save percentage this season, allowing 11 goals on 58 shots (81%) and recording three shutouts.

Primack attributes the difference in performance to a combination of factors, including injuries. Still, she’s not letting that stop her or her team.

“The biggest key with this right now is just letting go because we can’t change it,” she said. “Here we go, we’re in conference play.”

The season did not go as the Saints would have liked.

“We were a little frustrated,” she said. “We know what a good team we are; it’s not a question, the talent of the team… it’s not debatable.

Primack thinks the team is capable of playing solid and can turn around the season.

“I expect us to make the tournament, I do it fully,” she said. “I think we are fully capable of it, I expect nothing less.”

With a 2-0 win over Governors State last Saturday, a game in which Primack recorded a shutout, that turnaround may have just begun.

HCC men’s junior forward Gabe Nyenka also picked up a win over Governors State. Unlike Primack, Nyenka has been playing football since he was young.

“I was born in Liberia. At home the kids were playing football, just kicking as soon as you could walk,” he said.

Even from an early age, football has always been Nyenka’s passion. As a child, Nyenka played football all year round, mostly casually with friends and family.

Upon arriving at Park Center Senior High School, Nyenka tried out for her high school football team as a sophomore and made the varsity team.

“When I first joined the team people thought I wasn’t going to make the team, I ended up getting started,” he said.

Playing in Minnesota, Nyenka met a Holy Cross alum on a Sunday League team and put him in touch with Coach Gallo. Once Nyenka met Gallo on a recruiting trip in November, he knew where he wanted to play.

“When you talk to other coaches, you can feel the difference between the football and the person,” Nyenka said. “When I spoke to Coach, it was more because he saw me as his son.”

Starting for his entire career in high school was a trend Nyenka brought with him to Holy Cross. In the past two seasons, he has started in 23 out of a possible 23 games. Meanwhile, Nyenka recorded 11 goals (the 10 he scored the previous year led the team) and 8 assists.

Although Nyenka is a regular starter, that’s not what matters most.

“If I start I help the team, if I don’t start the person has trained better than me this weekend so that person is the best person for the team,” he said. declared. “I know playing will help the team win, so I’m working hard to be in the starting lineup.”

Although the team starts 2-2, Nyenka believes the team is poised to perform better in conference (where it is 1-1-1) mainly because the team is connected, like a family.

“We are more connected, thanks to coach Omar and our captains me and [senior Kamoy Creary].

This season, the focus has been on off-the-pitch ties, which weren’t as strong in previous years, according to Nyenka.

“Get to know the person before the football so you can bond,” he said. “When you’re on the pitch, you play harder, you work harder for that person, because now that person is like a brother to you.”

Nyenka, a business student, said he had ambitious plans after graduating from Holy Cross.

“I really want to open a business in Liberia,” he said. “I’m also thinking more about the sports side, setting up a school for kids to come to school and play sports, but also focus on academics. The hope is to bring children to the United States to play college so they can earn a college degree.

Contact Tom at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu

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