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  • Matt Ondesko

A key communicator

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union

When you have one of the best keepers in all of Western New York it could get kind of boring on the field. But, even Shea Vanderbosch can’t do it all by herself. She relies on a very good defense.

After all, it’s a team game - not an individual one.

The scorers get all the love on the pitch. They get the recognition when they score the goals. The get the accolades when the team wins. While they are scoring goals, the defense is doing their best not to let them in.

They are trying to stop the other team from gaining any momentum. Defenders never get the recognition they deserve, they do get all the blame if the team loses. If could be a simple mistake in communication between the back end that could cost a goal.

Lancaster High School’s Brooke Grazen knew she had a lot to live up heading into this season with the Legends. The first couple of years saw Grazen play sparingly, but this year she was expected to step up and play a big role on a team that was looking to finally take the next step.

“Defense is a very important part of the soccer game even if it doesn’t get enough credit. The forwards are given a lot of praise for finishing and scoring the goals. However I feel that every goal is a team goal that starts from the back and makes it to the front. If defense was not a part of soccer the whole game would change,” stated Grazen. “Defense is not just about how the back line defends, it is how we defend as a team. Playing great defense will lead to more offense and success. As a defender I am constantly working to rush, pressure, and confuse the player against me in order to cause a mistake by them. As I have grown and matured I learned how to play my position and the importance of having a back line. I have always loved defense ever since a little kid. Throughout the years the game of soccer became more natural and simple for me to play especially since I played on the varsity team.”

Playing soccer at Lancaster is turning into a family tradition. Grazen’s older sister, Brianna, recently graduated - and is playing at Fredonia State. Her younger sister, Natalie, was on varsity for the first time this year.

It could be tough trying to live up to the expectations that could be placed on a player because of a sibling that has played before them. That’s not the case with Grazen, because her and Brianna played two different positions.

Her older sister was the one trying to score the goals, while Brooke is the one trying to stop them. It makes for some fun times in the Grazen house. By playing a year with Brianna, it allowed Brooke to see how her older sister went about being a leader.

Now, she is taking care of the younger girls on the team just like her sister did.

“This year we lost a lot of big players on our team, including my sister Brianna Grazen who was a role model for me on varsity, it has created a bigger role for me. As the underclassman I had many upperclassmen to look up to. My sister was a captain and I watched her include everyone and made the underclassman feel comfortable,” stated Grazen. “As I am now an upperclassman, I took on the role of welcoming the new players onto varsity as if I was once one of them. I help to make every player feel like they belong to the team because soccer is a team sport and in order to be successful every player needs to belong. I also contribute to create a positive, fun, but yet a competitive and cheerful environment for everyone on the team.”

Communication is key both on and off the pitch. You don't need to be a captain on a team to have a voice. Communication is extremely important when the defense is trying to get in the right position on the field.

It’s starts with the keeper barking out orders, but it’s up to the back line to make sure they are in sync with each other. This is what has made Lancaster one of the better defenses in Western New York over the past couple of seasons.

It’s why they have played for a sectional title the last two season - losing to rival Clarence both times.

“Communication is a very essential aspect of the soccer game. As a defender in the back line it is very important that we are always communicating because one mistake can cost the game. Without having a keeper that is loud and direct at all times the team could easily become unorganized. Having Shea as my goalkeeper has helped me to keep my back line in order as she sees the whole field from a different perspective,” explained Grazen. “Simple mistakes in the back could cost us the game so effective communication between who’s covering who and who’s on the ball is very essential. This is my second year playing with Kam as my center back and I feel like I have played with her for years. We are constantly communicating whether it is who’s cutting the runs off or stepping to the ball while the other covers. All of my coaches, including Coach Taylor and Coach Corrie, have always emphasized communication between not just the back line but the whole team in order to be successful and win the game. “Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication” ( Mike Kazyzewski). On the field every player shares a common goal and that is to have fun and most importantly win. It starts with communicating and knowing what to do with the ball. In the back my teammates and I are constantly communicating to the whole team to ensure that easy mistakes won’t be made.”

It’s just not communication that has seen Grazen exceed over the past couple of seasons. Grazen has good vision on the field and that helps her become more of a well-rounded player. She is able to be a better leader on field help her teammates be in the right position.

That’s what it all comes down too. It isn’t about Grazen and all her individual accolades. It’s about team success and how she wants to help the team out the best she can.

“As a defender I can see almost the whole game going on. Therefore I feel it has shaped me for a better leader. I can critique and tell every player what I see is happening on the field. I once was more of a timid player and being a leader is not always the loudest person. However, I have now become more vocal and confident,” stated Grazen. “The positions on the field are all very different and as being a defender I am responsible for my back line. Even though I may not be captain I feel as though every person is a captain and a leader in their own way. As Ronald Regan once said “the greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” On a team every person contributes their leadership abilities to create a better team no matter the skill level of each player.”

Grazen has gotten better as they years have gone on. Some of that is due to the fact of playing more during the offseason. The Buffalo Rush is a new travel team in Western New York, and Grazen chose to play for them .

While the pandemic hasn’t allowed for travel outside of New York State, Grazen is still getting her work in. She is still competing every day to be at her best.

“The new Rush program came up and I decided that I wanted to try it out. I am very excited to get to know all the girls and make new bonds,” stated Grazen. “I can’t wait to see what this team holds for me. I believe that it’s not always about who you play for, it’s your attitude and what you do every chance you get when you step onto the field.”

Stepping on the field is what Grazen loves to do. She loves to compete with her teammates. She is slowly becoming the leader that people believe that she can be.

That’s just fine with her. She sees the potential of this team on and off the field. She loves to motivate her teammates whenever she can. It’s the type of person that she is. Grazen wants that extra responsibility. She thrives in that type of environment.

“With being an upperclassman I can motivate every player to be their best and reach their full potential on and off the field. As a sophomore I looked up to the upperclassman as if they ran the team and set the role. I got the opportunity to play with my sister Brianna her final year and every single practice and game I looked up to her as my role model,” stated Grazen. “Her love for the sport was very inspiring to me. As an upperclassman now I hope to bring the positive spirit and energy to the team like my sister has shown me. Last year Lancaster won the section title and with being a part of that team I know what it feels like to win. Being a part of that team has really helped to gain my sense of responsibility and with having experience I hope to set an example to the younger players this year.”

Grazen also knows that soccer just isn’t all about being physical. It’s extremely important to have a physical part to your game on the pitch, It’s also important to be ready mentality.

You could be the best player on the pitch everyday, physically. but if you make mental mistakes you could be no good to the team. Grazen knows how important it is so be able to push yourself mentality everyday in practice, and games.

It’s easy to give up when it gets tough. Being able to fight through it upstairs is just as important as getting through it on the pitch.

“Soccer is not just a physical game it is a mental one. A sport can be mentally exhausting if you are not prepared to push yourself. Each player must have self confidence in their team and themselves. If players have self confidence then the play and strategies are more likely to be more efficient because concentration is not on messing up it is playing your game. On defense especially I have to concentrate on every play of the game to stop the ball from going past the back line because one mistake can cost the game,” stated Grazen. “As a defender I trust my teammates with every ball being played, especially my goalie Shea behind me. Every player must mentally be able to take criticism and learn from it, otherwise you will not become a better player. I have grown up with a very competitive family which has been positive and negative. They have always pushed me to be number one and be the best I can be. With that I have learned to grow from it. I realized that it is not always about being the number one player, it is about bettering yourself and maturing as a player.”


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