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A box-to-box player, Scarlett Damico shines on the pitch

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos: Amanda Burns, Special to Sports Union

Times have changed. There were times when high school coaches would reach out to colleges on the behalf of their players to help them get into school. They would send out tapes to schools, and put in a good word.

But that was then, and this is now. Now, it’s mostly up to the players to have to basically recruit themselves. They have to send out the tapes, and reach out the coaches. They have their youtube video highlights.

It’s a completely different wold.

Scarlett Damico’s recruiting process was a little different than most. Early on in the process, Damico made some great headway, but then Covid came and shut everything down for everyone. Then she sprained her ankle the next yearn, and missed the rest of the season. It could have been an oh here we go moment.

But, it wasn’t. Damico instead kept grinding away on the recruiting trail. Showing all the coaches what she could do on the field. Her determination paid off as she will now be heading off to Bentley.

“At the beginning of my sophomore year, I started reaching out to coaches and making some real headway in my recruiting process. Then Covid shut everything down. To further complicate things, in the middle of my Junior year, I sprained my ankle and I was out of soccer for essentially the rest of the season,” stated Damico. “This brought my recruitment to a standstill. When I finally felt like I was at my best again, I started reaching out to new schools, but I wasn’t getting much traction. I wanted to play at the highest level possible but it was important to me to go to a top academic school. On a whim I decided to reach out to Bentley because they were the number one school for academics for Division II. Coach Lukis loved what she saw and in January of this year I committed to their women’s soccer program. Bentley gave me everything I was looking for, top-notch academics, competitive soccer, and being located in a major city.”

Bentley is getting a good one. Damico is a do everything midfielder. Before colleges, Damico has been counted on to contribute on the offensive and defensive ball of the ball. She is the one that controls the midfield.

She is the one that takes controls, and gets her team in the right positions. Damico is a tireless worker in the pitch, and she has to be. Playing the number 8 had her going from box to box, and her work rate is high.

“As an 8 I have the job of being both an offensive and defensive center midfielder. This means that I have to be fit enough to run from box to box throughout the game,” stated Damico. “Working on both sides of the ball, I have to have the vision to play the right pass and the aggressiveness to play defense and control the midfield. Being a solid midfielder also means that I need to be a leader and communicate loudly with my fellow center midfielders so we can be a cohesive unit.”

Damico is asked to of a lot for her teams. She is looked to contribute some goals when she can, but that isn’t what she is known for. If it was up to her, Damico would rather just shut down the other team’s best players.

She takes a lot of pride in the position that she plays. She takes a lot of pride in being the best defender on the team.

“As a midfielder getting involved in scoring is always great, but I take just as much pride in shutting down my mark and helping the defense. As the 8, I am responsible for dropping back on defense when one of our defenders drives up the field, and I have to track my mark up and down the field no matter where they go,” stated Damico. “I also have to use my offensive vison when playing a more defensive midfielder by being able to do something positive with ball when I win it back from the opponent and helping my team on the counter attack.”

Damico also needs to make sure she has great vision on the field. If there is one thing about Damico is that she is a student of the game. She makes sure when she is not on of the pitch, she is in the classroom studying film.

Being a student helps her improve her soccer IQ. It’s almost like Damico is a second coach on the pitch. She can see things before they happen, and that helps her pick out the right pass, and the right teammates.

“I have always been a student of the game and spend a great deal of time watching soccer as well as my own film to develop my soccer IQ. This has contributed to my ability to have good vision on the field,” stated Damico. “Throughout my soccer career, but specifically in the last year, my coach Matthew Waddington helped me to incorporate more advanced tactics into my game and has made me focus on playing a very specific way. Coach Matt has taught me to use my vision to work with the forwards and break down the other team’s defense. This can be done by finding the center forwards feet when they check back to the ball or finding the diagonal pass to the outside forwards running in behind.”

Like most athletes, Damico also plays travel soccer. She plays for the Western New York Flash, the premier travel team in WNY. Travel, and high school, soccer is completely different. Travel soccer is about getting noticed from college coaches. It’s about working on their craft during the offseason.

High school soccer is completely different. It’s about the friendships that are being made during the four plus years on the team. it’s about playing rivalry games - like against Williamsville South.

Both play a central purpose in the development of a player.

“I feel like high school and club soccer are two different experiences that helped me in their own way to grow as a player. The joy of high school was that I got to represent Will East and play with some of my closest friends. One of my best memories was winning the big rivalry game against Williamsville South,” stated Damico. “I also loved getting to play against some of my club teammates at their respective schools and talking smack with them the next day at club practice. Club soccer was entirely different. High school focused more on winning while Club was more centered around personal growth. Having a longer club season allowed me to identify some of my weaknesses on the field and work on them throughout the year, which prepared me for college soccer.”

Damico knows college soccer is a completely different animals. In high school, she was the best player on her team. In college, she is just like everyone else. Everyone on the team at Bentley was the best on their high school team.

Damico knows she has to work hard to be able to standout and get playing time as a freshman She just doesn’t want to sit on the bench and take up space. Damico wants to be able to make a difference, and help her team win.

“Overall, everything in college soccer is going to be club soccer multiplied by ten. I am working on my fitness to be able to keep up on the field and improve my speed of play to match the quickness of the collegiate level. Also, the girls I am going to be playing against are going to be bigger and stronger so I am working to improve my physicality to be able to compete on the field,” stated Damico. “I could not be more excited to start my collegiate career at Bentley, but I know it is going to be a big change. This will be my first time living on my own and being away from my family who have been there for me through everything. I will be living in a major city that I am not very familiar with and I will have to navigate life on my own for the first time. I will also have to balance getting a higher education with the rigors of Bentley’s women’s soccer program. I know this will be difficult, but I am excited for the challenge.”

The challenge too is figuring out how to manage everything that is going on in a college person’s life. Finding the right balance between soccer, school and down time is extremely important.

Working on ones mental health is more important now, than it has been in the past.

“I think it is extremely important for student athletes to have hobbies and people in their lives outside of their sport as a way to step away from the stress of competitive athletics. It is vital to balance sports and everyday life to maintain your mental health. Fortunately for me, soccer is my happy place,” stated Damico. “I use soccer as a way to get escape from the stress in my life and forget about the bad for those 90 minutes. Of course when soccer gets stressful you will find me doing other things like watching movies or hanging out with my friends, but soccer will always be my first choice when life becomes too much.”

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