Synk Twins In Sync Onfield At Baldwin Wallace
by Norm Weber in Our Hometown News
Thanks to the rule in college athletics that allows student/athletes to redshirt in a season when they might be injured and carry that forward to use in a fifth year of college, the Synk twins from Strongsville are playing their final year of college soccer this year.
Jim and Andy Synk, both midfielders, have helped Baldwin Wallace’s men’s soccer team to one of its best years in recent history, which included an eight-match winning string during October. Both are grateful that they were able to hang around for another semester.
Although they will be finishing up together at BW, it did not start out that way. Andy wanted to test the Division I waters first so he went to Bowling Green as a preferred walk-on. After two years he had had enough, realizing that being a Division I student/athlete was like a full-time job without the benefits even though he played just about every minute in every match while he was on the team..
“When looking at colleges, one always has to think about academics first and at the time Bowling Green seemed like the right fit at the time for me,” Andy said. “I did get playing time, but it turned out to be not what I wanted and looked at the possibility of coming here. I talked to my brother about it. We thought it would be a good idea and so I made the move. Not only have I enjoyed the soccer and academic experience here, I was also able to pledge a fraternity, which has been really good to me. ”
Upon transferring though two years ago as a junior, he became injured right at the start of the season and had to miss the 2007 campaign. The red shirt that year allowed him to have two years of eligibility remaining. He was one of the focal points of the Yellow Jackets finishing with a 9-6-4 overall record and a bid into the NCAA tournament in 2008.
Jim’s story is a little different. While playing club soccer, he had befriended BW coach Reid Ayers and was impressed by the coach’s credentials. Ayers has had a long-time association with the international soccer domain. In 1980, just weeks after the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Olympics, Ayers traveled with the legendary East-West Soccer Club to the Soviet Union and was sent off by the late Gerald Ford, former President of the U.S. Doubters believed he and his teammates would never return home alive, but he survived it and eventually had built both successful men’s and women’s teams at BW.
“I was very impressed by Reid, what he had accomplished, whose circles he’s run in and his knowledge of the game,” recalled Jim, who is majoring in both finance and. accounting. “I had thought about Division I and looked at a few schools, but I knew BW would be both a good academic and soccer home for me. At first, my dad said, ‘No way. You are not going there. It is too close to home.’ I finally convinced him that as a student/athlete, I would be living on campus and that it would be no different than if I were living miles and miles away from home, with the benefit of his not having to travel far to see my matches.”
With lessened reluctance, Mr. Synk (Tim) finally bought into the idea of one of his twin sons being only one community east of his roots. In addition to being tucked away in the frat houses, they have had the luxury of ducking out to take the few-minutes drive home and get a home-cooked meal every now and then. Also, friends from Strongsville have been able to come out and watch their matches at times, thereby functioning as fan support. Teammates have also been able to go with them to Strongsville.
They both could have graduated in the spring, but knew they could squeeze another year of soccer out of BW. Instead of making arrangements to attend graduate school this fall in order to maintain eligibility, they decided to spend the spring studying abroad, in Australia, and then finish up their undergraduate class work this fall.
“It was a nice experience traveling and I didn’t really want to graduate,” said Andy, sounding like one of those “professional students” who can never get enough of learning. “This allows me to get my finance degree and then prepare for CPA and brokerage licensure.”
As a freshman in 2005-2006, Jim played in 17 games on defense. He took two shots. Jim was a part of the Yellow Jacket defense that only allowed 19 goals in 21 games. The team had 11 shutouts. He helped the Yellow Jackets win the OAC/MIAA Shootout at Ohio Northern. Jim earned his first varsity letter as the Yellow Jackets tied the school-record for wins at 14, with a 14-6-1 overall record. The team was nationally-ranked for the third consecutive season and received its second consecutive OAC Tournament bid.
As a sophomore in 2006-07, Jim played in all 18 games and helped the BW defense to eight shutouts, while giving up only 13 goals. Offensively, Jim took 11 shots, with five on goal and one going in for two points. He helped BW compile an overall record of 13-4-1 and an all-time school-best ranking of 10th nationally by the NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of America).
As a junior in 2007-2008, Jim played in only one match and was forced to sit out the rest of the year with an injury. Jim red-shirted, granting him a fifth year of eligibility.
As a senior in 2008-2009, Jim earned his third varsity letter by appearing in all 19 matches for the 12-6-1 Yellow Jackets. He recorded two goals on 18 shots and two assists for six points. He helped BW to tournament titles at the Penn-State Behrend and OAC/MIAA Invitational.
So, both sat out the same year and returned last year for their senior years academically and junior years athletically.
Both started out in the ‘Stang youth program in Strongsville, began travel ball shortly thereafter and by middle school were playing club soccer with George Nanchoff’s Internationals Football Club.
“We were lucky to come from a soccer community like Strongsville,” Jim recalled. “We did get a lot out of our club experience, but because our coaches at the high school were also involved in club and travel ball, we really didn’t lose anything during the fall. We were always under that umbrella of doing what we needed to do to get to the next level, whether that was getting to college or moving along on the tournament trail.”
Andy recalls a memorable experience which imbedded in his mind that it is great to come from a very soccer-minded community like Strongsville.
“Our team had just won the tournament and I was driving down the street the next day,” he said. “I was pulled over by a policeman. He came over to get my license. Then he saw that I was wearing my soccer jersey. He said, ‘Oh, you are on the soccer team that just won the tournament. I was at that match. That was a good match to watch.’ Then he let me go without ticketing me. It’s the benefit of being part of soccer in Strongsville. In just about any other community, I would not have been so lucky.”
The Synk family did start out in Parma Heights and did not move to Strongsville until after they began school. Because Strongsville soccer was so good to them, they have returned to the community in the summers to coach youth travel teams from both the junior ‘Stangs programs and Strongsville youth playing in club programs. They also plan to continue coaching Strongsville youth and others upon graduating from BW.
Things did not start off so well for the Yellow Jackets this fall.
“When we started off 0-3 this year, I was asking myself, ‘Why did we decide to hang around for another season?’” Jim said. “Then when we started to turn around thing and won eight straight, we realized that it was all worth it.
The opposite happened last year when the Jackets started off 11-0 and then tapered off in the middle and the end, lending again to the idea that soccer is a funny sport and trends come and go like water over a dam in the sport.
They were also superstitious during the winning streak this year, doing things like avoiding getting haircuts and shaving.
Both also participated in track, but preferred the team concept that soccer offered and thus concentrated on it as their main sport.