By Alicia Dziak

The modified girls team is made up of 10 eighth graders, eight seventh graders and one sixth grade team manager, and I’m lucky enough to be their coach.

The Lady Griffs’ six returning eighth graders all know the sport and make important contributions to the team. Logan Lukert stepped up to play goalie this year, and is doing a fantastic job, especially developing her punting skills and being a team leader as one of the team’s three captains. The other eighth grade captain is Ava Dziak, who can be counted on at midfield and to step in on defense. Mabel Robinson and Caitlyn Hazen are two of our fastest and most aggressive players, both effective at stopper and offense. Shelby Stisser and Shay Ellis have both been key at defense, as well as being in a position to score.

Newcomer Jackie Roggie, also an eighth grader, has used to her speed to really help out the offense as well.

Seventh grade captain Dru Robinson has had a great year so far, using her speed and knowledge of the game to be our leading scorer. Seventh grader Brooke Walker has been able to drive through the defense and girls on the opposing teams who are much bigger than she is.

So far this season, the girls have only played four games, and are currently at 1-2-1, having won over Lake Shore, with a tie against Eden and losses to Pioneer and East Aurora. Pioneer has been the stiffest competition, as they have traditionally had a very strong girls soccer program.

At this level, the record isn’t as important as the development of the players. Every girl gets a chance to play various positions, to build their skills and their confidence. We’ve worked a lot on supporting each other and being a team; I hope to drive home to these girls that they are all part of any success we may have, and that they need to work together to achieve that success.  It’s not seventh graders versus eighth graders, or starters versus non-starters—it’s one team of 18 girls who all need each other in order to succeed.

After scrimmages and games, we evaluate our performance as a team, and gear the next practices toward what specific improvements we need to make, in addition to continually building on the basic skills. For the seventh graders, this is their first school sport, and I want them to like it! I want all the girls to see how fun it is to be part of a team, and how great it feels when they make a good play. Middle school can be tough, so if these girls can come to practice every day after school, knowing that there are 17 other girls and a coach who are cheering them on, then that’s a good feeling.

Overall, the girls have done an awesome job improving this season. With six games to go, the games are not even halfway over, and I am confident that they will continue to be more aggressive, communicate more and gain a thorough understanding of all the positions on the field as we head into the home stretch. We next face off against Holland on Friday.