By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Brockport Athletics
Success breeds success, at least that’s what people say.
Sometimes the success you have in high school might not translate into college. It doesn’t mean that they athlete wasn’t good enough to play at the next level, it might mean that there are just that many good players from all over the country.
It’s easy to sit here and tell an athlete that it will be ok, or that it will all come together for them. But, we as spectators, are in their shoes. We don’t know what is going on between the ears of that person who is stepping on the pitch.
Only they know how to handle the success or lack there off. They are in control of their own careers. While they may not score as many goals as they did in high school, maybe they are still happy with their career.
A college athletic career just isn’t about how many goals or points you get, or how many shutouts you may have. It’s about obtaining a great education, and making life long friends.
Brockport women’s soccer player Molly Zientek was a very accomplished soccer player coming out Holland High School. As college came around, Zientek had many different options to choose from when it came to where she wanted to further her education.
She choose Brockport over local schools like Buffalo State and Fredonia. She wanted to challenge herself away from the comfy area that is Western New York. She came to Brockport with a knack for being a play maker, a goal scorer.
Early on in her career thats’s now what she has become. She has become a reliable player of the bench, who is giving her team those minutes and trying to change the landscape of the game.
“I was really fortunate to have such a successful high school career and a lot of it was being from a small school. Going into college scared me at first. I was worried about whether or not I could translate my success in high school into a successful college career. The traumatizing injury I had experienced in the spring leading up to my freshman year took away my ability to fine tune my fitness and soccer tactility over that summer, which is a crucial time for any fall athlete,” explained Zientek. “My freshman year didn’t account for the player I was. Recovering and getting myself back to 100 percent game ready was one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do. But it motivated me to work even harder and helped me learn what it took to be successful in the college game. There is no way I could’ve got to the place I am today without my coaches. People like Matt Waddington and Tim Kronenwetter pushed me every day and helped me become the best technical player I could be. The biggest difference for me was working out with Ben Woods and Nick Pollinger at STA. They got my strength and conditioning well above the needs of any college athlete and it really helped me get ready to compete.”
Since stepping on campus at Brockport, Zientek has been a reserve of the bench. She went from every day starter at Holland to having to fight for minutes each game in college. For many athletes that would be a hard thing to adjust to. Going from Big Man on Campus to scratching and calling for everything that is given to her.
But, you haven’t met Zientek. She is a team first player. Sure she would love to get her goals, but it’s about the team. She likes being able to watch the game form the bench and see how others teams are playing.
Then when it’s her chance to get on the pitch Zientek feels she can make a difference.
“To some surprise I really enjoy not being a starter. It allows me to watch the opposing team and see we need to do better. One of my strengths as a player is being able to take advantage of the minutes I get and make the most of them. My job on the team is to push out those mistakes by catching defenders on their feet. I know that my role is to go 110 percent for as long as possible to push at the defense late into a game. In this situation I thrive. I am able to be all over the field and really bring the intensity up in the game,” stated Zientek. “One thing I wish would be brought up more, is the importance of the presence of your teammates on the bench. Having your teammates cheer you on and feeling the energy on the bench is what can win or lose games. This is something I think a lot of players are uncomfortable with and don’t realize that is the most important role they have at that moment. I know there might be better players on our team that can produce more than what I offer. This made the transition easy because I want the best 11 girls on the field to help us win, regardless if I’m in that group or not. Having such a skilled team makes me work harder and not get comfortable with where I am in a lineup that could change at any time.”
Zientek is a different kind of player. She isn’t the type of player that needs to be sitting in silence focusing her efforts on the game at hand. Zientek is more off a feel player. She needs to get out on the pitch and feel the grass under her cleats as she runs.
She needs to have those touches at her feet to feel the game in front of her. For Zientek the game isn’t so much mental but physical and instincts. She lets her soccer skills do the talking when she runs onto the pitch when called upon.
“Mentally focusing on the game is something I actually try not to do. As a player I try not to spend too much time thinking about every little detail of my play, instead I lean on my years of experience to know what to do,” stated Zientek. “When I’m relaxed and having fun, I am a better soccer player. So, translating that mentality to my time on the field allows me to be the best player I can be.”
Zientek has been through a lot during her career at Brcokport, and she wouldn’t change it for the world. After all these years playing the sport that she loves, Zientek’s soccer career is coming to a close - at least her college career.
This being her senior year, Zientek says she hasn’t given much thought to what her final game will be like. She hasn’t put much thought into her final season as a whole. She knows it’s coming up fast, but she is trying to live in the moment, live in the now.
“Honestly, I haven’t thought about my final game and how I will feel. I’m so focused on the point of the season we are in right now that the thought playing my last game hasn’t occurred yet. One thing I have thought about, is that my time competing is shortly narrowing. This pushes me to be the best teammate and player I can be every day,” stated Zientek. “Soccer has always been the biggest thing in my life. It’s at the point now where it isn’t in my life, it’s who I am, basically part of my identity. Even though my college career will be ending soon, soccer will always be in my life. I have been exploring options of potentially taking my soccer knowledge to coaching, and of course continuing to play in recreational leagues.”
She will also start the next chapter of her life. A chapter that will include nursing - this is what Zientek went to Brockport in the first place. The now is playing soccer at the highest level for as long as she can.
The future is about helping others. It’s about giving back her time. It’s about starting a new chapter in her book of life.
“I will be graduating from Brockport in May with my bachelor’s degree in nursing. There are a lot of different fields to go into when it comes to nursing, and I have been exploring a lot of them. One in particular that I have been considering is being an Air Force nurse,” stated Zientek. “At this time, I don’t know where I want nursing to take me, but I’m excited to see what it does for me. Brockport has really prepared me for the real world and I feel very confident that when graduation comes I’ll be ready for it. I have a lot of decisions to make after graduation and I’m eager and ready to see where my life after Brockport takes me.”