By DAVE LINK
Ben Pensky is staying plenty busy this summer with his soccer career, but still takes time to recall his junior season at Webb School of Knoxville.
The Spartans went 20-0 in the spring and won the Division II-A state championship. Their magical season included victories over most of the soccer powers in the 5Star Preps coverage area, including Bearden, Farragut, Maryville, West, Catholic, and CAK.
Pensky, the 5Star Preps Player of the Year, led the Spartans in scoring with 27 goals and 18 assists.
“I was actually sitting in my car the other day and looking through my camera roll at all the pictures from the Final Four week,” Pensky said, “and I got goosebumps sitting in my car. I watched the video of us lifting the trophy, and it was just crazy.
“It made me miss the guys so much and obviously we’ve seen each other since, but it’s just tough being away from them after being with them five to six days a week. It’s really just been unreal and I can’t wait to have another shot next year.”
Pensky, son of Tennessee Lady Vols soccer coach Brian Pensky, played a big role at the state Final Four.
In the semifinals on May 26, Pensky had two goals and two assists as the Spartans posted a 5-3 victory over Nashville’s Christ Presbyterian Academy. The next day, Pensky scored the only goal on a penalty kick in the state final, a 1-0 victory over Franklin’s Grace Christian Academy.
“He’s phenomenal,” Webb coach Jared Ziegler said of Pensky. “He’s everything you’d want from a player. He’s class through and through. He’s all in on everything. He tries to eat right. He trains every day, and it’s not just with the ball.
“He’s doing stuff to increase his foot speed, to get stronger, to get faster, and then also doing a lot of stuff with the ball to work on his technique. Obviously he’s a huge student of the game. It helps when your dad is a Division I soccer coach, but he really knows the game. He’s just got no off switch.”
Ziegler said Pensky is active on the Webb campus and in the community. He’s a school ambassador, showing prospective students the campus and speaking about Webb.
He will be FCA President next school year and takes part in Youth Leadership Knox.
“He’s somebody who does everything,” Ziegler said. “When we’re doing preseason training, he learned the names of the freshmen and was encouraging them when they’re running, at the end of the run when they’re really struggling. If a guy goes down with a cramp, he goes and helps them stretch it out. The things he does obviously have a huge impact on everyone who’s there, but once he leaves, other guys will pick up what he’s done and try to emulate it, and hopefully that will last as long as I’m around.”
Pensky is spending the summer taking visits to college soccer camps where he might continue his career after Webb.
He’s been to camps at Davidson, ETSU, and Colgate, and has scheduled visits to Harvard, Dartmouth, and Tufts.
“I’m excited,” Pensky said of the recruiting process. “It’s definitely a mixture of excitement and then obviously it can get nerve-wracking just because unpredictability is scary sometimes.”
Pensky (5-11, 180 pounds) does strength and conditioning training with Jared Lawrence of Knoxville’s Performance Training, Inc.
“He’s awesome,” Pensky said of Lawrence. “He’s a big reason why I’ve gotten a lot more athletic in the past few years. I’m just thankful for everything he’s done.”
Pensky is also trained by his father during the summers, and it’s not a high-pressure situation.
Quite the contrary.
“Honestly, sometimes I wish he would push me harder,” Pensky said, “but he just doesn’t want to do that because he just wants to be a dad. We couldn’t have a closer relationship.”
Pensky said he has a “really good relationship” with Ziegler, which started two years ago when Ben was a freshman and his brother, Will, was a junior.
“Coach Ziegler and I were really able to connect,” Pensky said. “He’s honest with us, he pushes us to be better every single day, and he teaches us so much on the field, but he teaches us more off the field. His pregame speeches are notorious, and I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but it’s awesome.”
Pensky will begin practices with his FC Alliance team in a few weeks in preparation for their fall season.
He looks forward to the 2022 season at Webb and rejoining his teammates.
“I’m so excited to finish my career out with my best friends,” Pensky said. “Preston Holmes is someone that I could talk about forever just because of how much he’s done for me as a player and as a person. I’d trust him with my life.
“I think he’s one of the biggest reasons we won state and I think because he’s a center-defender, he doesn’t get enough recognition for what he does, but he is just as deserving of this award as I am. I just couldn’t thank him enough.”