Loving the game
By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union
It has been a pretty enjoyable summer. After a miserable spring, the weather has been picture perfect in the Western New York area. Temps have been routinely in the 80’s, which makes it great for beach weather.
While most are enjoying the beaches and everything that WNY has to offer this summer, there are those that are out there pounding the camp circuit trying to get noticed. The summer is a big time for college ID camps - and the soccer community is getting in the swing. Camps at Daemen and Canisius College were just a few that were offered during the month of July.
It allows for the high school players to showcase their talents in front of college coaches. It allows the college coaches to take a look at players that might not be on the travel soccer radar.
Most players in WNY will play for Global Premier Soccer (GPS) or Western New York Flash. But, there are so many more teams out there. Not every player can, or want to, play for the bigger clubs.
ID camps allows these players a chance to make a name for themselves.
One of those players making the camp tour this summer is Brianna Grazen of Lancaster High School. Grazen has been making the camp circuit a regular thing this summer. Instead of hitting the beach, Grazen was gone for the month of July trying to get noticed.
She used the camps to showcase her abilities for those who might have not seen her play for her club team in Orchard Park or her Lancaster High School team. She went to the camps with the attitude of that she belonged.
There was zero pressure on Grazen at these camps, that’s how she liked it. She went to the camps just wanting to showcase what she had. No pressure at all.
“When I am at these camps I try to tell myself that every other person is here for the same reasons I am. We are trying to showcase ourselves to the college coaches and improve our skills and abilities. When I would step on that field I would tell myself “Always do your best. What you plant now you will harvest later”. All anyone can ever expect is your best. The ball hits my foot and now how will I better myself after every touch on the ball. How can I make a play that will show off all my skills that I have spent years working on? It's these things that keeps me confident when I step on the field not only at the college camps, this is every time I play soccer it always has to be for a purpose and the rest will come along with that,” explained Grazen. “There’s really never anything to lose, because every single person will have a bad game sometimes, it's just a part of the game, but it's how you use that to your advantage afterward, you better yourself from it. College coaches don’t just look at how good of a player you are, they are looking at your attitude when you’re tired or when you mess up and just in general it shows how much you love the sport. So, I show up to the college camps and tell myself that I deserve to be here just as much as any other player does and I set a positive attitude going into it. Like my coach Rick Couell claims how will you use your mindset skills to your advantage for this college camp?
You could almost say Grazen has been underrated ever since she stepped on the varsity pitch as a freshman. In recent years, the Legends have had a lot of talent go the Division I route. And, have more in the pipeline.
Grazen is a very talent and versatile player. She can play the wing or play the midfield. She is the type of player that can do whatever the coaches need her to do. Her talent on the pitch is second to none.
While others may get the recognition, Grazen goes out there and does her job. She isn’t flashy, but you notice her when she hits the pitch.
“This career for me has started younger than most. I came up to Jv my 8th grade year playing phenomenal soccer that whole season for the legends. I still can remember the day I played my best game of soccer on JV and just everyone congratulating me after that game and my teammates running up to me and cheering me on. But it's these times that have opened up so many new doors for me in soccer,” stated Grazen. “That following year I got pulled up to varsity as a little freshman It's that feeling that just keeps encouraging me to keep playing. I was a starting player on the right winger my freshman year playing alongside Molly Preston who was committed to play Division I soccer. I remember when I first joined the team I was so afraid of messing things up and not being good enough alongside of her. But instead she became a role model to me, someone I looked up to keep becoming better. I wanted to be that star player someday and I Knew I could become it if I worked for it. I am that player with the confidence on the ball now and I love what I do. This season is going to be it, I feel everything coming together finally. It's the soccer family that you create that’s so rewarding in the end. All the memories and All the friends along the way are the reason I am so successful right now.”
There is a lot of unfinished business for the Grazen and the Legends. Some will say the Legends underachieved last season.
A lot of that has to do with injuries. Lancaster was hit hard by the injury bug, something you don’t see that often during the high school season. As she enters her final go around with the Legends, that little freshman who was scared not to make a mistake on the pitch is now a senior ready to lead this team to new heights.
“Heading into senior year, I feel I have accomplished so much and have come so far in the game of soccer - but I'm even more excited for one last season to show what I got,” said Grazen. “I feel there is unfinished business after last season and now that’s my role to help get my team in act to get the business done. Over this past year I have grown so much as a soccer player myself, I am a much stronger player and I can’t wait to use this to my advantage this year for the Legends.”
Grazen will be the leader of this Legends team this year. Lancaster has a lot of talented youngsters coming up through the program, including her younger sister, but it will be Grazen that will be expected to the lead this team on and off the pitch.
It’s something that he is ready for. You could say that ever since freshman year when she played along side Molly Preston that Grazen was being groomed to be the leader of this squad. While some will shy away from the pressure, Grazen relishes the role.
“This year I have to be sure to lead a good example for all of them since this is my fourth year as a returning player. I have to keep them all on track and focused on the goal of winning a section title this year,” stated Grazen. “Also help each one of these players push to be the best player they can ever be as I was once their age looking up at the older players wanting to be just as successful they are. But it takes hard work for any team to get there and it's my job to motivate my team to work extra hard this pre-season. As long as I, along with the other leaders can get this young squad to rise up, I feel this is our year. I really feel the energy within this young squad and I'm excited to get started.”
While most have enjoyed their summer vacation, Grazen has been out getting her work in. Grazen has a love for the game that is unmatched by a lot of people. Some play soccer just to play and make friends - or earn a letter.
Grazen plays because he loves the sport - and the sport loves her. She knows her hard work this summer will pay off when she steps on the pitch ready to compete with her teammates.
“Although rest and days off are just as important as training. Most days you can find me at the gym working out to get stronger to improve my game. Strength physically is very important in soccer in order to hold your ground. You can also find me on my free time hitting up the soccer fields just to kick around and get extra touches on the ball,” stated Grazen. “My younger sister Brooke (a rising star) is now a sophomore and I'll spend countless hours juggling with her to help both of our games. “Let them sleep while I grind. Let them party while you work. The difference will show.” I love what I do It's a passion and that's why I love this quote. I tell myself everything I'm doing is going to help my game and no one else’s, mindset is a huge aspect in my workouts this summer. The difference between a good player and a great player will always show by how much harder your working on your days off.”