Merkle emerged as a leader for boys
Even though his team only had six wins, Catasauqua’s Joe Merkle was pleased with his season as well as his team’s.
“This was the best season for me,” said Merkle, a senior. “I thought that I had played better and we had more wins in a year than the past three years.
“We had more chemistry this year. That wasn’t there during the other years.”
Merkle also didn’t mind continuing his role as a leader on the team, as he served as a team captain for the second-straight season.
“Four or five of our starters were freshmen,” said Merkle. “We had to take them in and teach them. As a result, we were really close and the chemistry was great.
“This was my second year as captain. Last year, it wasn’t as comfortable and I took advantage of my power. This year, I was more understanding and knew what I had to do.”
Merkle was among the team’s leading scorers the past couple of seasons, but the team just fell short of the mark.
“We did accomplish a lot this year,” said Merkle. “We started off strong and then we had our ups and downs. The Rough Riders finished with an overall 6-12 mark.
“We played well enough, but we just missed districts.”
Head coach Josh Inman appreciated Merkle’s efforts.
“Joey always works very hard,” said Inman. “He has been a leader though example and has done a great job working with the younger players.”
Merkle began playing soccer in third grade at the East Side Youth Center before his family moved to Catasauqua two years later. He began playing in the CYSA and then in middle school. His older brother Matthew also was a team captain, and the two played together for two years.
The younger Merkle credits assistant coach Jamaal Arnaout for his development.
“He (Arnaout) really showed me how to play forward,” said Merkle. “He showed me moves and explained how to adjust. He really has had a big influence and inspiration to me. He told me what it would take to play at the collegiate level, and he helped me really fall in love with the sport.”
Merkle plans to play soccer in college and likely will pursue a degree in biochemistry, emphasizing work in radiation. He took that lead from his sister Tanya Gallagher, who is a nurse.
Along with soccer and track in the spring, Merkle is involved with student council, FLBA, digital media and a student representative for the town. He also is president of the Varsity C Club.
“Soccer was fun,” he added. “I like to be involved with different things, and I’m looking forward to the spring.”