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Center of attention

by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

Watching Western New York Flash defender Allysia Iaquinto you can tell she has what it takes to be a top defender at the next level.

Iaquinto is a very physical center back, but can also move the ball from the back. She is the new type of center back - not like the ones in years past. In years past, a defender was just a defender. They weren’t expected to move the ball like they are now.

The perfect example of the new center back would be Italian National team defender Riccardo Calafiori. Calafiori will take on any defender 1v1, but also male the pass to set up a game-timing goal.

Iaquinto is the same way. If you watch her tape, there isn’t one forward that wants to go up against her one 1v1.

“I have a strong mentality that I will win all my 1 on 1 battles, and nobody will get by me. I have a big responsibility at the back, so I always take initiative and own up to any mistakes,” stated Iaquinto. Yes, I do think I get in their heads. It’s important to start off the game strong and stand your ground early, so they know what their place is on the field.”

Being the center back also means you are the captain off the team. Iaquinto is in charge of making sure the defense is in the right place at the right time. There is a lot of responsibility with the position that she plays.

Iaquinto has to make sure she is communicating with her teammates at all times. Making sure she knows where her midfielders are as she tries and make the right pass to get the play started.

“Being a center back is a big responsibility and my teammates depend on me to communicate what I see on the field. Communication from the back line is key during corners and set pieces,” stated Iaquinto. “I make my presence known on the field by communicating how I see the field from my perspective from the back line. Also directing the ball into pockets of space on the field I see.”

This season, Iaquinto made the jump to the Flash. Coming from north of the border has allowed her to experience things that she may not experiences by just playing in Canada. The biggest thing for her is the time commitment.

It’s a big commitment to have to come from Canada every day to come practice for a few hours than drive back. Iaquinto could easily complain about spending all her time on the road, but she loves the game - and loves putting in the time to get better.

“It is a big commitment to go across the border for practices,” stated Iaquinto. “Time management is key with this team, since most of my nights are practices and traveling across the border and back. But I love it!”

It also allows Iaquinto to play, and practice, against some of the best player in Western New York and Beyond. Just recently, Iaquinto, and her team, travelled to Seattle to compete in the ECNL playoffs.

If was an experience that she won’t be able to take back.

“Playing against some of the best girls in the country, it really brings out the best in me,” stated Iaquinto. “It brings out my highest compete level and makes me better as a player since I come out of my comfort zone in situations, learn new moves and get confident in my playing style.”

Playing in a big tournament, like the one in Seattle, can be a lot of pressure for anyone. There are a ton of colleges coaches there - all trying to get a look at how you are playing.

Some players might crumble under the pressure, while others might thrive. Iaquinto knows there are people in the stands watching her every move. How she acts on and off the pitch. But, she doesn’t let them get in her head.

She just focuses on her game, and what she can control.

“Even though I’m aware of who’s watching me in the stands, I tune everyone out and focus on my game. I focus on the play Instead of who’s watching the play,” stated Iaquinto. “I don’t get in my head because I know that it will throw off my game.”

As she starts looking at colleges, Iaquinto knows the recruiting has just begun. She has specific things she is looking for, including top academics, her program that she wants to study, And, of course, having a great women’s college program.

“I start looking for the school environment, the programs that they offer and looking at the women’s soccer team for that school,” stated Iaquinto. “I want to make sure it’s a fit for me and I will strive at that school. The recruiting process can be tough, it has to check off all my boxes and make sure it’s the right one!"

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