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Bandura leaves her mark

by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

Geoff Schneider: Sports Union

Senior year, it’s what every athlete looks forward too. It’s the four years of hard work all rolled up into one.

All the blood, sweat, and tears, that an athlete has gone through for four years is celebrated during this time.

Mt. Mercy Academy soccer player Rosie Bandura was looking forward to her senior year. The soccer team was just coming off back-to-back Monsignor Martin titles, and Bandura was one of the biggest reasons why.

This was supposed to be her swan song. A chance to look back at everything she has accomplished during her time at Mt. Mercy. Sometimes, however, the storybook ending isn’t always meant to be.

To say her senior year wasn't exactly how she pictured it would be a huge understatement. Bandura only managed to play in four regular season games this season due to a lisfranc fracture in her foot.

A promising senior season came to a crashing halt. Instead of celebrating on the field with her teammates, Bandura was enduring rehabs with the hopes of getting back on the pitch before the season came to a close.

“Suffering a lisfranc fracture in my foot, and only being able to play four regular season games my senior season, was definitely something I was not planning for. From the minute my club season ended, every day during the summer was dedicated to preparing for Mercy soccer,” stated Bandura. “I thought that I had developed into a more explosive player during that time and for it all to be taken away was heartbreaking. With our team coming off the undefeated season and the championship the previous season, we all knew how important this year was. I wanted to be at my absolute best to be able to continue our run.”

Heartbreaking is the word that comes to mind as you saw Bandura in a walking boot and crutches. This was supposed to be a big year for the senior, and her team. Coming off an undefeated league season least year, and a championship, the expectations were sky-high for both the program and Bandura.

Instead there was Bandura rehabbing as hard as she could so she could back on the field one last time. She wasn’t going to let her senior year be defined by this injury and watching her teammates going through the battles without her.

Bandura did everything possible to get back on the pitch in time for the playoffs, All that hard work finally paid off when she scored two goals in the Magic’s 2-0 semifinal win over Buffalo Seminary.

While Mt. Mercy wasn’t able to bring home another title, losing to a good Mt. St. Mary Academy team in the final, the fact Bandura was even able to get back out there in that short amount of time shows the kind of grit and determination that the young lady has.

“As frustrating as the injury was, I can look back with such gratitude that I was able to have the best team of people around me who really cared about me. I was pretty limited on doing anything active. It was a struggle mentally and physically but getting back for the playoffs was the motivation that got me through those hard moments,” stated Bandura. “I did not want to end my high school career without being able to play. I wanted to do anything in my power to be back on the field with my teammates. I was lucky enough to return for some minutes in our semi final home game. It was pretty emotional for me to be able to score two goals in that game to help our team reach the finals. Missing all that time and limits in practice ultimately caught up with me in the finals. I probably wasn’t fully ready to return but once I was healed, I was going to play no matter what.”

What a high school career it was. Before Bandura entered the halls of Mt. Mercy Academy, the soccer team had never one a Monsignor Martin title. There have been many close calls over the years, and many semifinal defeats.

Bandura was the missing piece to the puzzle. They had some very good players on the team when she entered Mt. Mercy as a freshman. She was just able to fit in right away, and feed off the team that was already in place.

“Unbelievable (when talking about her time at Mt. Mercy). From my first day at Mercy, that was my goal and to be able to achieve it not only once, but twice back to back was absolutely indescribable,” stated Bandura. “And that definitely came down to everyone on that team, especially coach Higgins. She deserves the credit for all of the success we reached. Coach has been such an important part of my life and soccer journey in such a short amount of time. She has always been a great supporter for me and really helped me to bring out my best on and off the field.”

As she finishes up her senior season, Bandura has time to reflect on everything she has accomplished at Mt. Mercy, just not on the field, but off it. Being a smaller Catholic school, like they are, there is something special about Mt. Mercy Academy.

There is more of a family atmosphere from students, to coaches, to everyone involved. It just feels like everyone is fighting for the same cause. Bandura felt that as soon as she visited the campus.

She could have easily went to any other Catholic school in the area. But, it was Mt. Mercy that drew her in.

“Mercy is such a special place for me. I choose MMA because of the feeling of family it provides. I could have attended a number of schools to play, but Mercy felt like home. I have had so many amazing moments and memories from my four years playing Mercy soccer,” stated Bandura. “I have learned so much about myself and how to be a leader and reliable player. I learned how to score goals and lead the attack. Especially in my senior year, I realized how much I really enjoy being able to help coach my teammates and set an example on and off the field. I was able to be a voice this season that my teammates could trust and that was a really cool thing for me to experience.”

When one door closes another one opens. Bandura’s soccer career is far from over. She accomplished everything she could while at Mt. Mercy. Now, it’s time to start a new chapter in her life.

A chapter that will be just as exciting as the one that is closing now. Recently, Bandura officially signed her National Letter of Intent to continuer her education, and athletic career, at Mercyhurst College.

Signing on to play in college fulfills a life-long dream that she has had ever since she put her cleats on for the first time.

“Academically, they have very high standards and the campus is beautiful. After speaking with coach (Rich) Wall at Mercyhurst, I felt that there were many similarities between how I see the game and how Coach’s style would match,” stated Bandura. “Once I had my unofficial visit and spent time around the team, facilities and with the coaching staff, I felt a strong connection and level of comfort. Athletically, it’s everything I could want and the facilities are some of the top in the region that I visited. The program is really competitive as they just won the PSAC West title this season and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. These kinds of accomplishments are expected. The coaching staff is focused on winning and continuing to grow as one of the best teams in the country.”

Now the real work begins. Being on the team is one thing, being able to contribute is another. Bandura is going from the big fish in the small pond to the small fish in the big pond. It’s going to be like freshman year of high school all over again.

Bandura is going to have to prove to her coaches, and teammates, that she belongs. If you think she is afraid of proving herself, think again. She is looking forward to the challenge, and can’t wait to get started.

“To me, that is the best thing about the journey. There is no special favoritism or promises… It's all about betting on yourself and proving people right. Throughout my soccer career so far, I have had to battle a lot of adversity in every aspect and I think that I am mentally prepared to be able to fight for my dream,” stated Bandura. “Obviously college soccer is completely different from anything that I have experienced but I am so excited to learn and grow into a more complete player. Physically, I am focused on getting stronger, faster and becoming a more dynamic and powerful athlete to be able to compete everyday.”

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