McKeesport, Pa. – Every family has a tradition that runs deep in their blood from generation to generation. For some, it is a secret family recipe passed down throughout the years. For others, it is a special vacation spot where they take their family every single year. No matter what the tradition, it runs deep in your blood and drives you to be better every single day.
For Penn State Greater Allegheny Senior Soccer Player Marin Marina (Pittsburgh, Pa,/Baldwin HS) that family tradition is the sport of soccer. Ever since he can remember, Marina has had soccer in his life and he has taken that family tradition and turned it into a great career at PSUGA over the past four seasons.
Marina’s first memories of soccer come from around the time he was three years old playing in the backyard. However, Marina says soccer was introduced to him almost from the moment that he could stand.
“I couldn’t even tell you my first memory of soccer because that’s how young I was,” said Marina. “I just know from pictures that as soon as I could walk my dad had a size one soccer ball in my hand. We would go out and do our thing in the park and practice all sorts of different things.”
It was his father, Pero Marina, who Marin credits with being the biggest influence for him in the sport of soccer. Pero Marina played soccer back in his home country of Croatia and then took the game wherever he went. Along with Croatia, Pero Marina played high level amateur soccer in Bosnia, Germany and even the United States. Marin Marina says his dad’s support and his philosophy on life are two of the biggest influences in his soccer career and his life.
“My dad was the biggest supporter of my soccer career,” said Marin Marina. “He always thought that you had to do something other then school and sit around. He thought to become a really good human being you have to work hard and build your background and your ethics, and sports was a way to do that.”
Having that soccer role model in his life has allowed Marina to gain a different perspective of the game and a much greater appreciation for it. Marina said his dad taught him more of the mental side of soccer that you don’t see all the time in the states. Things like staying alert, reading opponents, and getting to your spot are just some of the lessons that Marina’s dad taught him to help improve his game.
“He always told me to look and find plays and make sure I was always revolving my head,” said Marina. “He would make sure I was looking and making intelligent runs and he just really taught me the mental side of soccer and how to read players and stuff like that. So, he brought something into the game that not many American coaches do.”
With all of these lessons in mind, and a love for the game, Marina continued to pursue soccer as he grew up in Western Pennsylvania. As he got to the high school level, Marina was unsure if he would continue his soccer career. He feared that he wasn’t competitive enough but, after some pushing from his dad, he decided to go for it and give it all he had.
It was a little bit of a slow start for Marina as in his Sophomore year he barely made it onto the junior varsity team. Marina would find the confidence he needed in Coach Brian Wells who Marina says created a positive environment for him to be able to grow and blossom in the game of soccer.
“Coach Wells was a really positive role model for me back then,” said Marina. “Because I had struggled to make the JV team my sophomore year and he and Coach Ray Stark just really kept a positive environment and they kept us working hard without being critical or putting us down.”
Having that positive environment allowed Marina to develop his talents and become the soccer player he is today. Although he played more on the defensive side of the ball in high school, it allowed him to be able to read the opposing offensive players and be able to tell what they were going to do so he could react accordingly.
After the high school experience, Marina was set to go to another school and not play soccer at the next level. However, Marina would then meet the head soccer coach at PSUGA at the time Achilles Vassilicos who was able to change his mind about playing soccer at the next level and officially brought him to PSUGA.
“I actually had planned on going to another school and not playing soccer,” said Marina. “Then Coach Achilles really brought me into the fold of playing soccer here and he warmed me up to the idea. He just helped me incredibly and I don’t think I would have had as successful career as I did here without him.”
Marina and his teammates saw a lot of success here at PSUGA throughout their four years. From the championship run of 2015 to the playoff run of this season they enjoyed several moments throughout their time. Not only was the team succeeding, but Marina found himself playing at a high level and he was being recognized for it.
His accolades started right away in his freshman season as he was named to the 2014 First Team All-Conference team and followed that up with a Second Team All-Conference honor the very next season. He turned from a defensive player in high school to one of the top goal scorers in all of the PSUAC.
“I played defense and my coaches didn’t really let me play a lot of offense because they didn’t think I was cut out for that,” said Marina. “But I think I proved a lot of people wrong with the amount of goals I have scored and that’s one of my favorite memories Individually.”
He capped off an incredible PSUGA career this season where he was at the top of the PSUGA leaderboards in many categories including goals (11), shots (48), and points (28). For his efforts he received Second Team All-Conference status and helped his team make it to the semifinal round of the PSUAC playoffs where they eventually fell to Penn State Hazleton.
Marina says that he would not trade his time at PSUGA for anything in the world and he would do it again in a heartbeat. For the future of PSUGA soccer, Marina says to work hard both on and off the field and enjoy every single moment that you get to step out on the soccer field.
“The advice I would give to future PSUGA players is to stay positive, work on their fitness non-stop, and enjoy every memory,”” said Marina. “It has been an incredible four years and I’m so glad that I did it.”
For the Marina family, soccer will be something that is always a part of their lives. Marin Marina got to live that family tradition here at PSUGA and has helped turn the program into what it is now and set it up for many more years of success in the future.