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Laissez les bons temps rouler: Let the good times roll

“When I was very young, I begged my parents to attend the Grand Island girls’ soccer matches so that I would be able to watch role models like Marcy Barberic and Maddie Pezzino play. I will be forever grateful to everyone that has contributed to my growth and maturity as I move towards the next phase of my soccer development.

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union

How was your summer?

For some, the summer time is a chance to relax and enjoy the nice weather that Western New York has to offer. For others, it’s a time to train and get better at their craft. For student-athletes looking to go to the next level, it is a time to go on some recruiting visits to see what might be the right fit at the next level.

For high school junior and seniors who are looking to play sports at the college level the last two years have been tough. Because of the global pandemic that has been going on, there was a recruiting freeze imposed by the NCAA.

That meant that until this past summer, potential recruits couldn’t go on official vista, and college coaches couldn’t talk to them in person. Everything has to be done over zoom. Trying to decide where you want to spend the next four years of your life over zoom in no easy task.

Potential recruits needed to get creative when it came to selling themselves to potential colleges and universities. There were still the occasional travel tournaments where they could be “seen” in a game setting - and other things they could do.

Ever since she first picked up a soccer ball, Grand Island High School’s Avery Mondoux wanted to be the best, and play at the next level. Everything she did on the pitch and in practice, was to get ready to succeed at the highest level.

When Mondoux stepped onto varsity for the first time it was like she was a seasoned veteran. It looked like she belonged from the very beginning. Putting on the white and blue was a dream come true.

Being able to play on the same field as some of the girls she watched playing before her was surreal at times. Now, after she graduates, young girls will want to be just like her. The same why she wanted to be watching her idols play.

“There has been a long-standing tradition in Grand Island to lay the foundation for girls' soccer players to achieve their goals in the game. There are so many players and coaches' past, present, and future that have molded me into the student-athlete I have become,” stated Mondoux. “When I was very young, I begged my parents to attend the Grand Island girls’ soccer matches so that I would be able to watch role models like Marcy Barberic and Maddie Pezzino play. I will be forever grateful to everyone that has contributed to my growth and maturity as I move towards the next phase of my soccer development. Finally, I hope that my contributions to the varsity soccer team and the greater Grand Island community will inspire younger players that have similar ambitions. That is the best legacy that I can leave a successful program.”

Her hard work over the years has definitely paid off as Mondoux will realize her dream of playing at the next level. Choosing a college wasn’t as easy as one would think. Sure, Mondoux had a lot of offers to choose from.

At the end of the day, she was looking for the fright fit for her both academically and athletically. Where she ended up choosing was a surprise to many. One because the program has been struggling over the years, and second ally because of where it is located.

Thibodaux, Louisiana is a far cry from Western New York. The culture, the food and the weather are just a little bit different from different chicken wings, Buffalo Bills and cold weather of the friendly confines of WNY. But, there was something about taking to the coach and taking a look at the school that drew Mondoux in.

If you look at the record of Nichols State this year one will see the program as a rebuilding program. The Colonials just hired a new coach, and they are going through the growing pains this year. That never deterred Mondoux when she was looking at the school, and talked to the coach.

“If someone would have told me three years ago that I would be playing collegiate soccer in Thibodaux, LA, I wouldn’t have believed them. My connection with Nicholls State University women’s soccer originated through a non-traditional recruiting contact,” explained Mondoux. “My long-time personal trainer and advisor, Mike Ertel, passed on a post from Coach Podeyn from LinkedIn. He was searching for impactful attacking players to rebuild the future of his newly acquired program. At first, I was skeptical as we had made similar connections through these outlets in the past with little success. However, there was immediate interest and a strong belief from the coaching staff at Nicholls State that I could be a major contributor to a program on the rise. The connection I felt during the visit along with Coach Podeyn’s vision for the future of the program is what gave me the confidence to make this decision.”

Mondoux is certainly dynamic. She has had an amazing senior season leading the team in goals and assists. She is the type of player that the Colonials needs. Mondoux comes from a winning program and can bring that winning mentality with her down south.

“I believe that my mental toughness and nonstop drive on the field can help bring on the growth that was expressed to me by Coach Podeyn and his staff towards building a successful program at Nicholls State. One of the main reasons that I selected Nicholls State to continue my playing career is earning the opportunity to be heavily involved in more meaningful competition during every match,” stated Mondoux. “I am entering Nicholls State with a large group of student-athletes looking to make the same impact. The previous challenges of the program will not define the future that is being built. I place my full trust in the coaching staff to execute on its vision to win a conference championship during my playing career.”

She knows college life won’t be easy, however. Mondoux knows she won’t just be able to step right in and dominate like she has done with her time on the island. Every player that plays in college was the best player on their high school team. It’s the work that is put in when no one is looking.

That separates the starters from the non starters.

“I fully understand that the skills and traits I’ve learned which launched me towards competing at the Division I level will not be the same ones that I will need to flourish in that environment. Through observing college matches and receiving meaningful feedback from coaches and players, I am aware of the areas that I need to address to thrive at the next level,” stated Mondoux. “The two themes that were discussed in my conversations were a faster speed of play and a more demanding physical environment. The sooner that I can adapt my game towards meeting the demands at the Division I level, the more impactful that I can be in contributing to my team’s success on the field.”

There is no doubt that Mondoux is one of the bigger recruits for the Colonials. That is a good thing, but at the same time that could lead to a lot of pressure. Mondoux knows a lot of eyes will be on her to succeed down south.

It’s how she can handle that pressure that will be the key. Mondoux knows she can’t put the weight of the world on her shoulders - it wouldn’t be fair to her. She can’t listen to what the outside world is saying.

All Mondoux can do is control what she can control. If she can be at peace with herself than her career has no limits.

“I set the highest expectations of myself to succeed inside the classroom and on the field every day. My primary concern is not focusing on external pressures to perform but centering my inner drive towards continuous growth,” explained Mondoux. “The personal sacrifices that I have made and the difficulties I have overcome shape who I am, not what I do. My passion for soccer has led me to become more mindful about how I approach everything in life. I remain hyper-focused on my path to attain a professional playing opportunity and will not surrender to external pressures to fit in. It's never crowded when you are willing to go the extra mile.”

Going the extra mile is something that she is trying to do, while living in the moment. Mondoux still has a senior season to finish. She still has playoffs, and a sectional title she is trying to help the Viking win.

She realizes everything that is going to be on the horizon. She understands the challenges that will await her when she steps foot on campus next year. But, Mondoux isn’t putting the pressure on herself.

She is living in the moment. One step at a time, one game at a time, on practice at a time.

“Although I am trying to live in the moment and enjoy my senior year, I realize that I will have to manage life as a Division I student-athlete. This will be my first time living away from home. Managing the daily tasks of being on my own will be an initial challenge,” stated Mondoux. “I was anxious about moving this far away from home when considering several schools in the recruiting process. However, I am comforted by the incredible opportunity that lies ahead with this program and the all-around support that I receive from my inner circle of family and friends. I will keep an open mind and view this transition as an opportunity to change the course of my life.”

The one thing Mondoux won’t miss is playing soccer in the cold. While the regular season is nice and warm in Western New York, the playoffs tend to get a little cold and raining. She won’t have to deal with the cold down south.

She will also need to get used to some of the different kind of cooking the great state of Louisiana has to offer. They are known for some of the best food in the country. Mondoux will be trading in those wings and blue cheese for some southern style eats.

“Growing up in the western New York region, I will definitely have to get used to a new climate and culture. Although I know this adjustment will take time, I am hopeful for an experience that will take me outside of my comfort zone and allow me to become a more well-rounded player and person,” stated Mondoux. “In honor and celebration of the Louisiana culture, the dinner that my mother made the day I verbally committed was jambalaya! I look forward to trying new things and learning more about what Louisiana has to offer.”

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