Everything was going right for Matthew Nozedar in his freshman season on the Providence High soccer team.
He made the Panthers’ varsity squad and earned a starting spot as a center midfielder for coach Timothy Long.
Nozedar scored seven goals in his first high school season and learned a lot about what it took to be successful from then Panthers senior forward Ben Burdon and Ryan Beckner.
But shortly after his freshman year, Nozedar – now a senior – would be forced into one of the toughest decisions in his life: play high school soccer or play with the North Meck Soccer Club (now Carolina Rapids) Academy team.
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The North Meck Academy team, under the veil of the U.S. Soccer Development model, made a rule that players could not play for both their Academy and high school teams.
So Nozedar made the difficult choice to not play at Providence his sophomore season, hoping the Academy team would give him more opportunities for his future on the soccer field.
But after less than a year of Academy soccer, Nozedar returned to Providence for his junior season.
“I always loved playing high school soccer, and just soccer in general,” said Nozedar, who was born in Hull, England. “When I played for the Academy team only, I just felt like there was something missing. So I made the decision to go back to the Providence team. I knew I would still be playing soccer every day, practicing every day. I could still play club soccer (for the Carolina Rapids U18 team).
“I felt like if I was good enough and it was meant to be, then college coaches would notice me and come to see me play. I was really happy to represent the black and gold again.”
College coaches did notice: Nozedar verbally committed to Pittsburgh on Sept. 22 after making an official visit Sept. 19-20.
Long said he understood Nozedar’s initial decision but was glad to see him return to the Providence High team.
“I remember when the other (Providence) players told me he was coming back and it was one of those things that I was like, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’ ” Long said. “Then he came and told me he was coming back and came to summer workouts, and I knew it was the real deal.
Nozedar had 27 goals and five assists as a junior, earning All-SoMeck 8 conference, all-region, all-state and All-Observer honors as a forward.
Providence was unbeaten in the regular season last year, winning the SoMeck 8 title and its first 24 games before falling to eventual state champion T.C. Roberson in the 4A semifinal at home.
“Last season was a great experience, to be undefeated most of the season. I feel like we really proved how good Providence can be,” Nozedar said. “We were tired of seeing Myers Park be No. 1 and it was about time for us to prove, for us and coach Long, that we are one of the best teams in the state.”
While Nozedar, 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, prepared for his senior year, he also had a great summer, as interest grew from schools including the University of Pittsburgh and Coastal Carolina.
Nozedarreturned to England in mid-July to train with English Premier League’s Hull City U18 Academy team for two weeks.
He now is focusing on his senior season at Providence High, where the Panthers are 11-1-1 overall and 6-0 in conference play and currently No. 8 in the state coaches poll.
Nozedar has been a big part of that success, with a team-best 18 goals and six assists.
Nozedar’s 52 career goals leave him just four short of the school record, an 18-year-old mark held by 1996 graduate Josh Riska.
While Nozedar is known for scoring, Long says the senior forward – nicknamed “Noze” – pronounced nosy – has expanded his game.
“Noze has been a dependable player since he got here as a freshman,” Long said. “But now he not only scores goals but makes plays and sets his teammates up for goals. Teams have to man-mark him or double-team him and that opens things up for other guys. He has the natural talent to be around the ball and to want the ball and he also has the tactful awareness to make other players around him better.”
Nozedar says the 2014 Providence High soccer team took some time to find itself at the beginning of the season but now is hitting its stride going into the final month of the regular season.
While Nozedar said it will take “a total team effort” to contend for a conference championship and 4A state title, he is eager for the challenge.
“I’ve always had a knack for scoring goals and I would say it’s a mentality of believing you are one of the best players on the field,” said Nozedar. “I know there are big expectations and sometimes you can’t live up to those expectations. But I love the big games and I love the pressure.”