Finding the right balance
by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor
If you score goals, you get noticed. That’s just how it is when it comes to sports. Those who dot the score sheet on a daily basis are the ones that get all the press.
Sometimes, however, the ones that do the little things are the ones that keep the team going. The unselfish players are the ones that get the ship right. The players that do all the little things, are the ones that coaches want on the team.
East Aurora High School soccer has a lot of talented players on their team every year. They once again won their division and are trying to make another deep run in the Sectional VI playoffs. One of those players that is helping the team on its run is junior forward Gabbi Barusic.
Barusic has been all over the pitch for the Blue Devils. She has 17 goals, but it’s the assist that might be more impressive. As a forward Barusic has 18 assists, which is second on the team. But, it’s more than just the goals and assist that Barusic brings to the table.
The junior brings a great soccer sense, and vision, to the pitch that a lot of players just don’t have.
“When I am playing up top and holding the ball up, I feel like I can see everything happening at once. I feel strong enough now as a player, that I know I can get anyone the ball if they don’t hesitate, but they have to trust me,” stated Barusic. I am learning that in my position the team has to trust that I can do that for us and that I will do that, then any player is the right player. The right player to receive my passes, is the player that will trust me and know I’ve got their back.”
It’s a slippery slope when is comes to the position that Barusic plays. She is a forward and is expected to score goals. That’s what forwards get paid to do. They are expected to step on the pitch and lead their team to victory.
So, at times, Barusic needs to be selfish. She needs to be able to take over a game if she needs to. However, that’s the great thing about Barusic, in her mind being selfish isn’t about just scoring goals. If it means waiting and finding the right person with a pass than so be it.
For Barusic it’s all about team success.
“I think of chances not just as scoring goals. Any chance I have, I think of how this will get the team the win,” stated Barusic. “If that means me hesitating to find the opening and opportunity for someone else and they get the goal and I get the assist, I still feel great, because I helped that person and our team get to that moment.”
Barusic is a gifted playmaker, that happens to play forward.
Being a player maker comes easy for the junior. Even with 17 goals, Barusic feels like she can still improve on that aspect of her game.
How scary will she be if she gets the goal scoring thing down more than she already has?
“Creating opportunities for others comes easy for me. All I want is to help my teammates, but creating those same opportunities for myself hasn’t come as naturally for me. Finishing this season and continuing on into my club season, I plan to make more opportunities for myself a priority,” stated Barusic. “I do plan to continue to “trust the process,” it’s hard to do that, but I’m trying, because I am seeing changes in my game and I am proud of where I am at right now. I’m not stopping anytime soon.”
Ever since she could remember Barusic has been obsessed with perfecting her soccer skills. That meant hours and hours on the front yard at her house just practicing her skills - killing the grass in the process.
But, it’s that type of dedication that makes Barusic the player that she is. That’s why she has seen her game jump up to the next level from her sophomore year. It’s the dedication she puts in on and off the pitch.
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with perfecting soccer skills. I would practice on my mom’s front lawn until there was no grass until I got enough touches in,” stated Barusic. “I realized early that I might not be the fastest player on the field, but I had something these fast players didn’t have, footwork. Add that and my ability to see where my teammates are on the field, I became a playmaker and if I can’t find a way to score, I will find a way for my teammate to score.”
It’s also the dedication she puts in after her high school season ends. Like most athletes these days, there is no offseason. A lot of athletes will either play another sport in high school, or they will play for a club (soccer) or travel team.
Playing for her club team allows Barusic to work on things she might not be able to work on during a very compact high school schedule, where they may play three games in a week. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for practice - or at least meaningful practice.
With her club team, Barusic can get that time in and work on the things she needs to work on to take herself to the next level. Only she knows how good she can be.
“I’ve learned to push myself, because I’m not the best I can be yet. In club soccer, you aren’t the best player right off the top, every single player in the league is trying to do what I want to do, they aren’t doing it just for fun, they are competing to be the best like me which means, you can never stop training and doing whatever it takes to learn, improve, and be the best player and teammate that I can possibly be for myself and the team I am playing for,” stated Barusic. “Besides playing for East Aurora High School, I play for my club team and we compete in the ECNL-RL division. We are already training and once the school season ends, our training picks up with our first league game Nov 19 in Louisville, KY. I’m excited to be playing in a few college showcases in South Carolina, Florida, as well as Penn Fusion and hopefully The Jefferson Cup. I also am planning to play my third season as a varsity basketball player, if my club schedule doesn’t conflict.”
As was mentioned already, Barusic has had a solid season for East Aurora. She’s had a few games where she has multiple goals and assist. It shows what type of player Barusic can be when given the opportunity.
She was ready for this year since EA lost to Lew-Port last year in the playoffs. She was eager all summer to get this year going - and it has shown in her play.
“I was excited for this season as soon as we lost to Lew-Port last year in sectionals. I knew after that game that I wanted to play differently for East Aurora than I have played for them before. I wanted to play for East Aurora like I play for my club team. I trained all year for it and I knew I was ready to show the team and that coach what I had been working on,” stated Barusic. “When things happen like a goal or assists, I feel relieved. I feel like maybe all this hard work is paying off, and people might finally be able to see that too. Sometimes it’s hard to feel that.”