Former Thomas Jefferson soccer star making his mark at Tiffin University
Based upon statistics alone, Thomas Jefferson boys soccer coach Dr. Michael Kulish knew former Jaguars star Tyler Fabian was a special player.
In four years as a starter on Kulish's TJ team, Fabian finished second on the Jaguars all-time scoring list. He produced a WPIAL-best 34 goals in his spectacular 2008 senior season, which ended with a WPIAL Class AA runner-up finish and an appearance in the PIAA playoff semifinals.
"(Fabian) started for me as a freshman and now he's starting as a freshman at the collegiate level," said Kulish, who has a 259-101-19 record, three WPIAL championships and one PIAA title in his 17-year career at TJ. "I'm proud to know that I helped groom that."
But there also was something else that truly set Fabian apart from the average high school soccer player.
Before the start of Fabian's 2009 freshman season at Tiffin University, the former TJ superstar gave his old coach a telephone call, just to see how the Jaguars were doing.
It was a call similar to one made by former TJ and University of Maryland soccer star Richie Costanzo, now playing professionally with the Minnesota Thunder of the United Soccer League, a minor league affiliate of Major League Soccer.
"With Richie it was the same way," Kulish said. "I've only had a handful of players call me and wish me luck. These are the kids who were really committed and really loved the game of soccer. It's nice to see them doing well."
As in his high school career, success for Fabian at the NCAA level began early.
Following preseason practices, Fabian was named a starting midfielder at Division II Tiffin. Midway through the season, he has cemented himself as a legitimate force to be reckoned with.
"It was very difficult at first because I went in not knowing anyone," Fabian said. "The whole game is a lot faster and everything and there are a lot more expectations."
One of the biggest expectations was for Fabian to continue to excel no matter what the situation.
After playing forward with the Jaguars, Fabian moved to outside midfield at Tiffin, which is where he played growing up with his various club soccer teams.
"He's doing a phenomenal job," Tiffin men's soccer head coach Rudy Brownell said. "With his size and skill we felt midfield is where he could help out."
The switch comes as no surprise to Kulish.
"He's always seemed conditioned," Kulish said. "He's a great ball handler and he can play defense well. You've just got to pay your dues. Being a freshman and playing, I'm really proud of him."
With 11 games in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference under his belt, Fabian has yet to cultivate the same kind of goal-scoring ability he had in high school.
Fabian doesn't yet have a goal, but has one assist and five shots.
"I feel like Tyler has done a very good job adjusting to the environment here," Brownell said. "Tyler has gone from the preseason on and has started for us. He has gotten better and better and better."
The biggest adjustment Fabian has made has been to the speed of the college game.
"It's completely different," Fabian said. "I start outside midfield instead of striker with Doc. It's a different formation, different game plan."
At TJ, Fabian mostly played in a 3-1-4-2 formation. Under Brownell, Fabian has had to adjust to a 4-4-2 formation, which as a midfielder requires him to excel as a defender.
"A big difference from high school to college is it's not a learning experience anymore," Fabian said. "They expect you to come in and do well."
And with his good start, Fabian has done just that.
"I think he has had good progress," Brownell said. "He's assisting more and defending more. We just feel like he's been the guy who puts himself in the right position, but just hasn't scored yet. The goals will come."
Brownell has a 23-12-1 record since taking over as Tiffin's head coach in 2007 after assisting longtime coach Ian Day for 16 years.
With a 13-6 record in 2008, Tiffin earned a GLIAC tournament championship.
"He works hard at practice," Brownell said of Fabian. "There hasn't been a day of practice where I had to say to him to get going. We feel like Tyler is one of the kids who can help us. We feel like Tyler can help us get back to the postseason."