by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor
There are different ways to be considered a leader. Some of those players will be the type of leaders that will get in a teammates face when things go wrong. Some will do whatever the coaches ask, and put the team ahead of themselves.
Buffalo State soccer player Gia Dilimone is the type that will lead be example. Just coming to the team in 2022, Dilimone was named a captain this season for this very young Bengals team. That shows the type of leadership skills the coaches believe she has.
It also shows the type of person Dilimone is. Last season, the Sacred Heart Academy graduate played in the midfield, but this season saw a position change to defense. It’s a position that she has played in the past, and one that her dad also played.
Still, moving back to the back line was still a change. A change that she was eager to do.
“The mindset is completely different for me. Defense requires elite patience and timing. Which is definitely an adjustment from attacking center mid, which is much more explosive,” explained Dilimone. “A huge change is the perspective. Not only am I in charge of myself, but also the teammates In front of me. At first this was a challenge to communicate that far up the field but, emphasizing composure make it a lot easier.”
Finishing her college career playing defense, where it all began for her as a little girl, has some irony in it. It’s what makes this game as beautiful as it is. Dilimone could have easily not made the change, and fought to stay in the midfield.
But, she knew moving to the back line would help her team have the best chance elf winning. Playing in the back is like having a family of her own. They communicate with each other. They move around as one unit.
“I actually started my soccer career as a defender (just like my dad). When Coach asked me to move to the back I was ecstatic. Being a part of the back four is something special. I consider us a machine. We move as one, think as one, and communicate through not only verbal but nonverbal signs as well. The back line is a family of its own and I strive to leave everything I have out on the field for them,” stated Dilimone. “I love the irony of ending my soccer career in the position that I started it in. There is a beauty to it.”
Dilimone’s story is a good one to show other girls on the team. She went from playing every minute of every game in high school to fighting for minutes in college. It can be a shell shock to other players who are used to playing a lot in high school, and then not playing much in college.
Some athletes feel they ‘deserve” to be playing when they get to the next level, Instead of earning their spots. Dilimone is the perfect example of nothing was ever handed to her. She earned her playing time, and earned being named a captain for her final season.
“Showing them the difference between the high school and college level is important. You really don’t understand the difference until you get here. Doing whatever it takes to win is the only way to get out on the field. Anything less is not acceptable. Not for me, not for coach, and not for the rest of the team,” stated Dilimone. “I show them I am the perfect example. I went from not starting with a low number of minutes to being a captain and starting. This is a result of putting the work in and being all in.”
If there is one thing you will notice about Dilimone is that she leaves it all on the field. She isn’t the tallest defender out there (5-foot-2-inches), but you wouldn’t know with how she plays. Dilimone plays bigger than her 5’2 frame. She isn’t scared to mix it with some of the taller players on the opposing teams.
Playing defense, to Dilimone, is like playing chess. You need to understanding the timing, the movement and, most of all, be patient.
“Not being the tallest is not an excuse to give up for me. I learned a lot of techniques from my assistant coach, Victoria Colotti. She teaches us to hunt for the ball, challenge everything, and to be fearless. She is a huge role model and motivator for me. In the back, it is very easy to become frantic,” stated Dilimone. “Playing defense is like a game of chess. You must understand timing, be patient, and reading plays. It is not all about just kicking the ball up the field and battles. I work on these skills every day at practice and in film in order to make the plays I need to make.”
While she has started every game at defense this season, the Grand Island native was still able to get on the score sheet earlier this year. It’s always fun when a defender can get in to the mix, and that’s exactly what Dilimone did.
The goal was needed against Keuka, as Buffalo State was trying to set the tone early in the first game of the season. Even after she scored, Dilimone went right back to her defensive position, and helped the Bengals earn a tough 3-0 win.
“The goal against Keuka was needed. It set the pace for not only the game but for the rest of the season. No one was expecting the left outside back to score the first goal of the game let alone the season. (Shout out to Hannah Esslie for an amazing pass.),” stated Dilimone. “A feeling of excitement and pure joy overwhelmed me after the shot hit the net. Nothing compares to being rushed by your teammates and a roaring crowd. But moments after, that feeling fades and it’s time to get back to work and finish what we came out here to do.”
It has been a hell of a ride for Dilimone during her soccer career. With only four games left in the regular season, and possibly playoffs, Dilimone’s soccer journey is slowly coming to and end. A journey that started when she was just a little girl.
She made her dreams a reality, and was able to play soccer at the collegiate level. Now, she will embark on a new journey. A journey that she hopes is just as fulfilling as playing in front of family and friends.
Dilimone knows the transition won’t be easy in the beginning. Soccer is something that she has done for as along as she can remember.
“I am most proud of how far I have come mentally. After high school I never thought I would play competitive soccer again. But, with some time to reset and think I started a new journey at Buffalo State. With the right coaches and training I was improving every day alongside my new team. I am proud of my determination to keep showing up and working hard through the ups and downs of life. I am proud of the person I have become the most,” stated Dilimone. “When I graduate college, I hope to pursue my interests in marketing. Advertisements and commercials are a field I hope to explore. I will also be looking to travel to further learn and develop skills outside of a classroom. Something that is not talked about enough is grieving the loss of soccer. Moving on from such a big part of my life will definitely take some adjusting. But, I am happy to pass the torch and continue to support my family, the Buffalo State women’s soccer team.”