Waterville junior Danilo Guthro grew up playing soccer in Columbia where the game is the national sport and babies coincide their first steps with shots on goal.

Guthro didn’t move to the United States until age 11 so he remembers the game in his native country quite well.

“The pace was faster,” he said. “One person doesn’t carry the ball a lot.”

Guthro has adjusted to the more physical style soccer is played in the U.S. and its somewhat slower pace, but there’s a lot of Columbia that shows up in his game, too. At 5-foot-2 and 135 pounds, Guthro is almost always the smallest player on the field, and generally the quickest.

“The last third of the season we played him up top,” Waterville coach Kerry Serdjenian said. “It really opened things up for us. The defense needed two or three guys to contain him.”

For his efforts Guthro has been selected Morning Sentinel Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Winslow’s Taylor Roy and Mt. Blue’s Drew Parsons were also considered.

This fall, Guthro scored 12 goals, five fewer than his sophomore year, but had a better season, according to Serdjenian.

“The big difference between last year and this year is his focus,” Serdjenian said. “It wasn’t about him scoring it was about the team winning.”

Guthro was banged up throughout the first half of the season, a victim at times of his own quickness.

“He had bruises all over his feet and ankles,” Serdjenian said. “He moves his feet so quickly people kick where the ball used to be.”

Guthro missed the Purple Panthers’ playoff game with a bruised knee. He trains for the game year-round, often under the tutelage of his older brother Wilson, who plays soccer for Taylor University in Indianapolis, Ind..

“I play the same game as him,” Danilo said “We go to Colby and he pushes me.”

The brothers do a lot of 1-on-1 drills with cones and a lot of shooting with both feet every day throughout the summer. When Wilson heads back to school, Danilo trains by himself, hitting the weights every day.

“I’m trying to get stronger so people can’t knock me off the ball,” he said.

As far as his size goes, he said it is an advantage because “small people are quicker.”

Next season will be pivotal for Guthro since the Purple Panthers are graduating10 seniors.

“I have to step up,” he said. “I’m a leader, the younger players look up to me.”

Guthro said he’s working on his speed and explosiveness in addition to his strength, which could be bad news in a conference where he’s already the quickest player.

During the offseason he plays for Maine Coast United at various showcases where he hopes to catch the eye of a few college coaches. He admits he’d like to visit his native country but also feels good about where he is right now.

“I’ve been here six years,” he said. “I’m kind of comfortable with everything. I love playing for Waterville High School.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638ghawkins@centralmaine.comTwitter: @GaryHawkinsKJ