PROVIDENCE — It has been a long and winding road to Friartown for Providence College men’s soccer team goalkeeper Austin Aviza of Medway.
He was a Mustang at Medway High for a year, earning the Tri-Valley League “Rookie of the Year” award. Then Aviza opted to play in the New England Revolution Soccer Academy.
Then he attended Syracuse University before transferring to the University of Connecticut.
Now, as a red-shirt senior, Aviza will be between the posts Sunday as the No. 21-nationally ranked Friars meet No. 2 Clemson in the third round of the NCAA Division I Championship Tournament.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Aviza has started all 22 matches for the Friars (16-6), who advanced to the Big East Tournament title match and now deep into the NCAA field, dethroning two higher-seeded sides.
Aviza took a shutout of New Jersey Institute of Technology in the Friars’ first-round NCAA match in Providence and then made five saves, blanking No. 15 ranked Penn State over the final 40 minutes as PC erased a two-goal deficit with a stunning overtime victory in the second round.
Aviza has a 0.97 goals against mark thus far with seven shutouts and a 72 percent save rate.
“Coming here (to PC) was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Aviza said at Chapey Field as the Friars finished their preparations for the match. “It’s worked out really well. I haven’t really started since my freshman year at Syracuse.
“Last year at UConn, I was starting, then I got hurt and had to sit out the whole postseason, the conference tournament, the NCAA tournament, it was tough.”
Aviza credits the Friars’ defensive wall in front of him, as PC has out-shot its opposition 355-150 on the season.
“People don’t realize how important footwork is, it’s harder than your hands,” Aviza said of his nimbleness along the goal line. “I can play with my feet and organize and communicate because the defense is so good — we don’t give up many shots.”
Aviza is enraptured with the confines of the PC campus, the inter-action between all Friar athletes and coaches as well as the student body as compared to the city-like atmosphere that is the UConn campus in Storrs or at Syracuse.
“He’s had an interesting path here, everyone’s road is different,” PC coach Craig Stewart said of Aviza changing zip codes. “It gave him his mental toughness and made him the person and player that he is. He came here and kept competing for a spot.
“He’s well-liked in the lockerroom and well-respected by the coaching staff. He’s been a good fit as a Friar.”
Aviza played in 14 matches for the UConn Huskies, compiling a 9-3-2 record with a 1.03 goals against mark and five shutouts over two seasons in Storrs.
Before playing in the American Athletic Conference at UConn, Aviza played in the Atlantic Coast Conference with the Orange of Syracuse. He started the first nine matches of his freshman season in 2015 with three shutouts for Syracuse and ranked No. 8 in goals against average (0.97).
Aviza also played with the U.S. National 18 and under and 17 and under teams and played in the 2014 NIKE Select match in Sarasota, Florida.
“He’s been very consistent throughout the year,” Stewart said of Aviza making the difference when it counted. “He’s a very level-headed, mature young man — he’s very professional in his approach.
“He has a good frame and uses that to his advantage and does a good job of managing the players in front of him, where situation don’t get to where they could be — he’s organizing and being pro-active.
His brother John and sisters, Shannon and Isabelle all played at Medway High. “My older brother was on the team that beat Norton on the way to the state championship (in 2016),” Aviza said of contending against coach Eric Greene’s Norton High Lancers.
“All my best friends played for Medway too after I left to play for the (Revolution) Academy,” Aviza said.
Aviza’s former Revolution goalkeeper coach Karl Spratt is now the Friars’ goalkeeper coach.
“Medway has some good players, they always have,” Aviza recalled, tending goal for the Mustangs during the 2012 season — shutting out Norton 3-0 in a second round match and beating Bishop Feehan 5-1 in the quarterfinals en route to the Division 2 South title. “Neil (Brandon, now the head coach) was there as the jayvee coach.”
“This year, even all of the stuff off of the field (academically, the PC community) has been amazing. Going to the Big East finals, getting to the third round of the NCAA Tournament, this is why I came here — to play in big games.”