Libertowski on track to beating all-time goals scored record


Evan Laux

Justin Libertowski during a pre-season practice on Aug. 29


“We definitely got a good story to tell for sure,” said men’s head soccer coach, Oliver Slawson.
“The way we came back and when we did… Justin was a big part of that.”

Last season the Ashland University men’s soccer team was given the “Catching Fire at the Right Time” award, marking their striking comeback in the second half of the 2018 season.

The Eagles had a rather slow start with a 2-8-1 kickoff to their campaign. However, the team saw a 6-2-2 finish, a GLIAC Tournament title and a spot in the Division II playoffs for the first time since the program’s rebirth.

The 8-10-3 overall finish was secured in part by then-sophomore Justin Libertowski, who had a stand-out year and one of the greatest attacking seasons in the history of the AU men’s soccer program.

Libertowski, now a junior, serves as one of the dominant forwards on the team and the GLIAC.
“He’s always working, he’s always running and he’s always battling and fighting for those extra inches. He just has those qualities that you need to score goals. It’s not easy, probably the hardest thing to do. That’s why the most popular players in the world are goal scorers,” said Slawson.

Libertowski lead the GLIAC with his 13 goals last season and tied for the fifth-most in program history. They were the most by any AU scorer since 2010.

He is no stranger to success on the pitch, though. During his freshman year, he scored five goals within his first three games as an Eagle.

“I definitely learned a ton my first year here,” Libertowski said. “High and lows, my freshman year taught me a lot about what I needed to work on and improve.”

Libertowski’s prosperous soccer career did not begin at AU, but rather when he turned 4 years old.

“I played a little basketball and baseball, but soccer was always the most fun for me,” Libertowski said. “My dad was my first coach and by age 10, I began taking it pretty seriously.”

In high school, Libertowski played for Medina and was a part of three stand-out years. During his senior year he scored 38 goals, crushing the school record.
Slawson believes Libertowski is fully capable of beating out AU’s previous record for most goals scored. With 18 total goals in two years, Libertowski is more than halfway to passing Kirk Harwat’s previous record of 34 goals set in 2001.

“If you’re gonna be a forward in our program, you gotta get behind the enemy line and hurt the opposition,” said Slawson. “His physical attributes help him; his strength, balance and center of gravity… they’re all a testament to his work ethic.”

Outside of soccer, Libertowski’s work ethic can be seen in his somewhat unconventional training ground located behind his house in Medina.

Around the age of 14, Libertowski, along with his brother and father, built the first edition to their “American Ninja Warrior” obstacle course.

ANM is an American sports entertainment competition airing on NBC. On the show, hundreds of competitors attempt to complete a series of obstacle courses of increasing difficulty in various cities across the United States, in hopes of advancing to the national finals on the Las Vegas Strip.

“I just do it for fun but my brother was actually on the show a couple years back. We all used to watch it together and we had the idea of building the salmon ladder. One obstacle led to two and now we have about 12,” said Libertowski.

The salmon ladder consists of a bar which rests on two parallel walls. The walls have seven sets of rungs for the bar to rest on, with gaps in between each rung. Competitors must use their momentum and upper-body strength to climb the ladder, by raising the bar from rung to rung.

After six years of causal ANW training, Libertowski has built up his physical fitness to a point. His main goal now is to focus on the more technical elements of his offensive soccer game.
“Every chance I get on the field I’m focusing on holding the ball and keeping it in possession,” Libertowski said.

Before every game Libertowski writes Mark 5:36 on the back of his hand.

“It says ‘don’t be afraid, just believe.’ I try and go into every game playing my best and playing fearlessly, win or loss.”