It is very rare when someone’s childhood dreams reflect their 21-year-old dreams, but Monmouth University’s men’s soccer goalkeeper, Eric Klenofsky, falls under this category.
“I was 11-years-old when my brother and I were discussing what we wanted to be when we grew up. He was about 15 and had just joined the volunteer fire department, so he said he thought he really wanted to be a firefighter. He asked me what I wanted to be and I said a professional soccer player. I literally think about that moment every day of my life,” Klenofsky said.
While Klenofsky has become one of the best goalkeepers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) has ever seen, that wasn’t always his position.
Klenofsky started his soccer career at age five when his father’s co-worker suggested that he sign up for the sport. He played center midfield, center defense, and even forward before ultimately committing to becoming a goalkeeper when he was 11-years-old.
“I was at my best in goal so my coach put me in goal. That was how it began. Then I started to train with Walter Gotrell who I still train with to this day,” he said.
Klenofsky never had any second thoughts about playing division one soccer; the answer was a definite yes. He had countless recruiters watch him play during his high school years at DePaul Catholic, so it became a matter of where he wanted to play.
Originally, Klenofsky was verbally committed to sign with Southern Methodist University in TX, but the scholarship offer was pulled two days before he was set to sign a letter of intent.
“I had a weird recruiting process,” Klenofsky said. “After the SMU case, I visited Monmouth on Tuesday, Iona on Wednesday and then I was set to visit Binghamton on Thursday but I knew Monmouth was where I wanted to be so I cancelled the Binghamton trip.”
Head Coach Robert McCourt said, “We heard a lot about [Eric] before he committed to us and we saw him play. Talent is the first thing that attracts you and then his size and reach. As you do research, you don’t just look at his playing; you check with club coaches to [get a better sense of] his character and locker room [mentality] and all those questions came back very positive for Eric.”
Since entering the University, Klenofsky has received the MAAC Defensive Player of the Week nine times, finished second in the nation for save percentage (.880) along with earning his second NCAA Statistical Championship for goals against average (.48) during his sophomore campaign, his first goals against average championship came during his freshman year (0.22).
Though Klenofsky has become one of the best goalkeepers the MAAC has ever seen, he was not always a first-string player.
“When he first came to Monmouth, he was a big time recruit but not originally a starter. He worked really hard and managed to get that spot,” Goalkeeper Coach Alex Blackburn said.
While Blackburn gives the junior credit for his hard work ethic, Klenofsky attributes a lot of his success to Blackburn. “I wouldn’t be anywhere in college without Blackburn. He was very influential in my growth as a goalkeeper and I wouldn’t have nearly as much success in college soccer without him.”
Even during the summer, Klenofsky makes sure to be involved in soccer.
“Since my freshman summer, I have played for the Ocean City Nor’easters, who play in the Premier Development League, the highest level of amateur soccer in the United States.”
These professional settings that Klenofsky has placed himself in soccer wise have helped him grow not only as a student of the game but also in maturity.
“I think the one thing about Eric is that he really carries himself like a young professional, he really works so hard at his craft. He is dedicated to his position and job, he watches videos. His maturity and approach is unique,” McCourt said.
Blackburn agreed, “Technicalities and practicing different drills in general has helped [Eric] grow as a more mature player. He is a student of the game and a strong leader. He is a really good goal keeper and will hopefully be a really good professional one day.”
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth Athletics