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Commanding the midfield

by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

Photos: Geoff Schneider: Sports Union

The forwards get all the praise. The goalkeeper makes the big save. But, it’s the midfielders that do all the work. They are the ones that are starting the attack, or hustling back on defense to help out the defenders.

The midfield is not an easy position. At times it can be a grind, also can be extremely rewarding.

Williamsville South High School girls soccer player Paige Szymanski knows what it’s like to grind through the midfield every day. As an underclassman, Szymanski is one of the best at her position.

She stepped in last year and never looked out of place. She was a dominating force on the ball for coach Carissima Cutrona.. The foundation that was in place for Szymanski really paid off as she had a breakout season.

“Stepping in as an underclassmen can definitely be some of the most nerve wracking thins during the high school season,” stated Szymanski. “For me, getting a good foundation from my coaches, and the group of girls we had on the team, really helped me shine and supported me throughout my sophomore season.

To be able to come in as a sophomore last season, and have the type of year she did, shows the type of talent Szymanski posses. Szymanski was able to see the entire field, and make the right playes when she needed to.

She has an all-around game, not seen that often at the high school level. While she can be a scoring midfielder, Szymanski also can pick out the right pass. Her 17 assists last season led the team, while her 19 goals were second.

“I think playing midfield is a tough but rewarding role,” stated Szymanski. “Playing midfield is not an easy task. I think some of the most difficult parts, other that the physical, is being able to see the field and playing both offense and defense. Taking your performance each game at a time can help to develop your role playing physically in the middle.”

While she might be known as a playmaker, Szymanski is till working on all aspects of her game. She wants to be known as an all-around midfielder. Each day Szymanski is trying to improve herself. She is trying to figure out when to shoot, or pass it up.

At the end of the day, however, it’s about team success. Stats are great for coaches to throwout to the press, but it’s winning a Sectional title that’s high on her list.

“Working on all aspects of my game has been something I have been working on for years,” stated Szymanski. “I think for me, developing the knowledge to know when to shoot or pass has become easier as I become older. But, I’m definitely always trying to improve my habits within all aspects of the game. It is most important to me that the team succeeds over individual statistics.”

This season Szymanski will be looked upon to take on a bigger role in the leadership department. It’s a challenge that Szymanski isn’t shying away from. She wants to be looked upon as someone her teammates can lean on.

She remembers the days when she was just coming up in the system, and looking up to the older players on the team. Now, she is the older player as the underclassmen try and find their way through the first couple days of tryouts and practice.

“I am definitely most excited to be taking on a leadership role going into becoming an upperclassmen,” stated Szymanski. “During the season, I was coached by coach Mac, he truly showed me how to become the best version of myself - and to become a true leader on this team. As I have grown up through the soccer community, my new coach Carissima Cutrona has also shown me how to become a leader and role model for the underclassmen - and the team is something really special. I’m excited to continue to learn and grow with my team for each of my last seasons.”

Szymanski is excited for what’s to come on the field. While she takes more of a leadership role of the field, she will be counted on to lead a very talented midfield when the season starts in a little over a week.

She knows it won’t be easy. While it’s fun, it’s also a very difficult job. She needs to make sure everyone is in the right positions al the time.

“Leading within the midfield ia fun but difficult job> making sure everyone is doing their job is important, including keeping track of yourself and other midfielders,” stated Szymanski. “Midfielders have to become offensive and defensive players, so we understand what each positions role is on the field. As a midfielder, it is important to lead and help do what’s best for the team in each situation.”

It is soccer all the time for Szymanski. When she isn’t playing for Williamsville South, Szymanski plays her club soccer for the Western New York Flash. Being able to play for the Flash allows her to practice with some of the best players in Western New York, and beyond.

It also allows her to go to national tournaments and play in front of college coaches. While playing in front of coaches could be nerve-wracking at times, Szymanski is ready for the challenge.

When she steps on the pitch, Szymanski just worries about her game. She can’t do anything about what goes on in the stands. She knows as along as she plays like she knows how everything will fall into place.

“I think it’s important to always play your game and not worry about who’s watching,” stated Szymanski. “The more you focus on the game the better you will do. Being confident in yourself, and your abilities, can truly make you rise to the occasion and become well noticed.”

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