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Elizabeth Forward girls soccer coach learned from former coach

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 1:26 a.m.

There are days when Brandon Gerba's head spins, and that's when he really appreciates having a good friend around.

Gerba, the second-year girls soccer coach at Elizabeth Forward, is learning how to run a program on the fly. He's balancing it with his job as a teacher in the Elizabeth Forward School District.

“He has a good reputation as a teacher. He brings a lot of favorable impressions to the team,” said former EF coach Gary Myers, now an assistant on Gerba's staff.

Until two years ago, it was the other way around for the two men. Myers was leading the Warriors to a pair of rare appearances in the WPIAL playoffs during his four-year run as head coach. Gerba was serving as an assistant.

But work responsibilities required Myers to vacate the post, and Gerba eventually won the job. Now Myers can be more flexible with his coaching schedule.

“I owe a lot to him,” Gerba said of Myers. “I've learned so much over our years together. It's been tremendous.”

Gerba laughed at the thought of heading into team practices at times searching for a plan. That's when he turns to Myers.

“There are times he can think of things on the fly for practice or warmup that just works perfectly,” Gerba said. “Or when it's a game day, he takes over some of the things that a head coach should be doing and he let's me worry about the game.”

Myers, though flattered, is firm in his belief of keeping a distance.

“I have complete confidence in Brandon,” he said. “We haven't lost a beat. I've been mentoring him for the years I've been here, but I don't want to interfere. I try to let him make his own decisions.”

Elizabeth Forward (2-1-1, 2-0-0 Section 4-AA) is seeking its second consecutive playoffs appearance after reaching the postseason in Gerba's first season as coach.

The Warriors, who will try to extend their unbeaten string (2-0-1) to four on Wednesday at South Park, have made just three playoffs appearances in their history — two in Class AAA and one since dropping to Class AA in 2011.

Senior midfielders Rachel Collage and Josie Madden, a pair of all-section players, lead a balanced scoring attack.

“We spread it out,” Gerba said. “I had six players last year with at least five goals.”

Collage, a Fordham recruit, led EF with 12 goals last season. She has five goals with three assists over the past three games.

“She can control a lot of games,” Gerba said. “Physically and technically, she's an exceptional player.”

Madden, who also is attracting Division I interest, is “working hard and getting noticed,” Gerba said. “When she gets the ball at her feet, there aren't many who can take it away from her.”

While there's scoring potential in Collage, Madden and senior forward Alison Pastore, Elizabeth Forward is getting things done on the defensive end, having yielded just three goals this year.

“We're not a team that gets blown out,” said Gerba, who cited senior goalie Jen Keefer as the leader on defense, with the majority of help on the backline from seniors Mary Cooper, Caitlyn Hinchey and Kylie Owoc and junior Olivia Barkley.

With an eye on Wednesday's home game, Gerba held an earlier-than-usual practice Tuesday, then hurried to an open house at school, where members of his team were being recognized for their work in the classroom.

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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