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  • Matt Ondesko

A path to success

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos by Geoff Schneider/Sports Union

It’s not often an athlete can see success in two sports. It takes a lot of dedication on and off the field to have that happen.

For Anevay Rice, of Clarence High School, success could mean a lot of different things. It could be winning championships or committing to a college for the sport she loves. Either way, Rice has seen a lot of success during her time on both the lacrosse field and soccer pitch.

While it might seem like soccer was the sport of choice when deciding what to play at the next level, it was lacrosse that has her heart as well. It just a little bit more time for Rice to warm up to the sport.

As a freshman Rice was timid, like most freshmen are. She was trying to find her way on the field, and with teammates. She knew the game she was playing in the beginning of the season wasn’t what she was known for.

Rice didn’t give it, not in the least. She continued to work hard during her first season on varsity - and the results started to show. Sitting on the bench, and not playing, wasn’t what Rice had in mind. She wanted to contribute to a team that had a lot of talent. She wanted to show people that she belonged on the field.

“My freshman year on varsity I was really timid and I wasn’t getting some results that I wanted, but I started to pick it up because I knew I wanted to be starting on that field every game,” stated Rice. “Everyday I just focused on running through drills at game speed and always being relentless in practice and in games. I have always tried to go at it as hard as I could because I knew that if I did that then I would see better results from myself. And as these past three years have gone I’ve realized how much I have improved and how much more I have contributed to my team.”

Rice’s determination has come through. She is a beat on the field, always getting the doubled team every time she has the ball in her stick. Rice loves the attention. She loves the fact that others teams are trying to put their best against her.

It makes her a better player. It makes her want to beat the other team by just not scoring, but anyway possible. If that means scoring goals whenever she gets the ball, great. If it means finding the right person to pass to, even better. At the end of the day, it’s about winning, not about how many points Rice can get in a single game.

“I absolutely love getting double teamed, I think that is the biggest compliment any player could ever get. For me it makes me even more determined to get that ball and capitalize whether it’s a goal, assist, or a good play. I know when I get double teamed I have to figure out which one of the girls is a bit less pressure and I try to cut off her to make the other girl fumble up on her own player. I try to use the defenders to set picks on themselves so I can pop open or I try to use both of them as picks for my teammates to create an open pocket for someone else to cut through.”

Her play on the field has gotten her noticed. To capitalize on the success she has had during the school season, Rice continued to her hone her skills during the summer by playing travel ball with Empress Lacrosse.

Empress Lacrosse is an up and coming travel team that has seen its fare share of young ladies going on to play Division I lacrosse. Just recently, a host of young ladies signed on to play at Akron, which just started up a DI lacrosse program.

Rice knew if she wanted to get better that playing summer ball was the only way that was going to happen.

“I chose to play Empress at the end of my freshman year, I was introduced to it by our 2019 goalie, Olivia Bakowski. She came from Stampede to Empress and she really got me into it, if it wasn’t for her first introducing me to Empress and taking me to practice sometimes I really would not be as successful as I am,” stated Rice. “I knew that Stampede was also a really good club but my family and I made our decision based on how much Liv loved Empress and how the girls and coaches took to me and really welcomed me in. Coach Scott and Coach Russ saw my potential and really helped shape me into the player I am today.”

The story of Rice’s success just doesn’t end there. While she is a go-to player in the spring, Rice also is a steady influence in the fall.

During the fall, Rice is a big part of the successful Clarence soccer program, a program that has built a dynasty over the years. Rice is one of the main reasons why the program knocked off rival Lancaster this year to win anther sectional title.

Having that kind of success in the fall only helps her when she steps on the lacrosse field in the spring.

“This past spring our entire lax team put everything on the field, and that’s why we were so successful. I wanted to bring that same mentality to my fall season because our team has always been known to be the best in Section 6. I knew that I had to do my part in keeping that title and I knew in just like spring season I’d have to put everything I have on that field in the fall,” stated Rice. “Playing multiple sports just really shapes you into a good person, you’re able to build your confidence and character on and off the field. You also get to meet so many great people that will challenge you to be better, and some of those people become your closest friends. But some downsides is that you maybe miss some fun school activities because you have a game, but in the end it was definitely worth it to miss that.”

While Rice might not be the go-to player during the soccer season, she plays one of the toughest positions on the field. Rice is one of those players that has to do the dirty work in the midfield. While she does score (8 goals, 8 assists), Rice also makes sure she makes the right pay at the right time.

If that means diving in to break up a pass so be it. As a midfielder Rice is always keeping her head on a swivel. She is always looking ahead. She can’t get caught up in the moment or it could cost her team a goal.

“As a middie you always have to have your head on a swivel, you can’t have blinders on. It’s your job to see the next pass and play, you can’t make the right pass/play without looking ahead because you have to think about multiple outcomes,” said Rice. “If you don’t look ahead and keep your head on a swivel then you could make a mistake that could be costly to your team.”

Rice has been part of a lot of winning during her time with the Red Devils. The soccer team has won three-straight sectional titles, and the lacrosse program is back on the rise. Winning helps build character and Rice has been soaking it all in.

She isn’t that timid freshman that stepped on the field for the first time just trying to find her place and role on the team. Now, Rice has turned into a leader. She is a person that other players look up to for advice, and to see how she played the game the right way.

Winning has something to do with that. Winning builds character. Rice grew into her leadership role, and now she is looking to pass down the knowledge that she gained over the years.

“Being a part of these great teams like Clarence soccer and lacrosse and Empress has really been able to shape me into a stronger person physically and mentality. I have always been surrounded by great coaches that have told me the flat out truth about anything and they have always shown me what a good team leader is.  My freshman year the senior captains really showed me how someone should lead. I have been able to carry what they taught me and what my coaches have taught me to the teams I have been on. In the offseason I really try to get all the girls that are able to to come to a workout session or gym time and Sahlen's games,” stated Rice. “ I have always been the type of player who is a good communicator and confidence builder on and off the field, and I want to help be that leader that is always there for my team for anything, whether it's practicing with a girl outside of regular practice or helping to explain a certain drill on the side. I am thankful that I have become the type of team leader that girls are able to come up to me and are asking me for advice on how they can improve their game, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. I am so happy with what I have been able to provide for my teammates and coaches, and I really do not think I could have asked for a better group of girls to spend my fall and spring seasons with.”

With the spring season hanging on for dear life, communication has been even more important than in the past. No one knows if sports will be played this spring. The section is doing everything possible to get in the regular season. They cancelled the state championships and all modified and junior varsity games, but are still hanging on to varsity.

It isn’t exactly how Rice has pictured her senior season as going. Senior year is a celebration of the last four years of hard and sacrifices that a student-athlete has put in. It’s a way to be honored for everything that they have given back to the school.

If this spring has taught us anything it’s that you can’t take anything for grant it. Just like that, in a blink of an eye, things that you love, and that you have worked hard for, can be taken away from you.

“It’s been really kind of difficult to think about not having a senior season. These past 3 years on varsity I have always looked forward to walking across the field and giving my flowers to my family on senior night and thanking them for absolutely everything, and thanking my coaches too,” stated Rice. “But I have also been thinking about looking forward to my college career in sports and how you really cannot take anything for granted.”


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