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Mental toughness on the pitch


by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union It’s a warm September day and the players on the pitch are dealing with the heat the best they game. On this day, temps are in the 80s as both teams go through their paces. From a spectator’s stand point the game just looks like it always does. Two of the best teams in Western New York going at each other for 80 minutes. The game is intense, and so is the heat. While the heat may be draining the players physically, it can also have an affect on them mentality. As the sun beats down, the game gets more intense. One little mistake can cost either team. As the game goes on, players take very moment they can to catch their breathe. Hands on shorts, sleeves rolled up over the shoulders. Whatever it takes to catch a few extra seconds to clear the mind and get a physical rest. As Clarence and Lancaster High continue to go at toe-toe-to at Lancaster High School, the constant is the play of Clarence midfielder Olivia Argentieri. As always, Argentieri is in the middle of action, pulling the strings fore the Red Devils as they take on their rival in a must see contest early in the season. On this day, the heat, and the physical play, is exactly what Argentieri wants. She thrives in this type of game. Argentieri was going just as hard in the 75th minutes as she was in the first minute. Her dictating play was one of of the resins why the Red Devils, despite some early season injuries, were hanging with the a very strong, and determined, Lancaster squad. Despite everything that was going on, Argentieri knew she needed to be mentality tough for a game like this. She also knew that mistakes would happen. Even some of the best players in the world make mistakes throughout a game. It’s how those players would bounce back is the defining moment. Argentieri knows while her physical play on the field is what gets noticed by those watching the game from the stands, it’s the mental side of the game that is just as important. “The mental part of soccer is almost as important to me as the physical part. I think to be a good soccer player you have to be mentally strong and smart. Many times in games things will not go your way and how you react to those challenges defines what kind of a player you are. To be a good soccer player you have to be able to not let the little mistakes get to you, you have to brush them off and do your best to not let it happen again,” explained Argentieri. “You have to live through mistakes to learn from them and I think that is a huge aspect of the game. I have tried my best to be a mentally strong player and I have found that the mental game can make up for the physical part. I think it is something that is crucial in the game of soccer for you and your teammates.”

Argentieri has seen it all during her time with Clarence. She has been part of the recent dynasty that has gone to states four-years in row. She has switched back and forth from midfield and forward to help provide insurance when the team was dealing with injuries. It’s her versatility that is a big asset for the Red Devils. When Argentieri is in the midfield she is pulling the strings, making sure the team is playing the way they should. She is out there controlling the midfield, thinking about the next play - or anticipating where to go with the ball. “I think being able to perform at both midfield and forward has allowed me to become a more dynamic player. As a midfielder I control the game by helping to transition the ball from the defense to the attack and look for open players. As a forward the mentality switches I am now the one looking to get open and score,” stated Argentieri. “The adjustment of going from midfield to forward includes changing mental state and physical ability. Being asked to do this in multiple games was part of being a team player, I was able to adjust easily and I knew it was something the team needed.” Argentieri has been part of a winner. She knows what it takes to win. She knows the grind it takes over the summer to be ready for a grueling high school season where they may play three games in a week. Argentieri also knows there is pressure that comes with putting on the Clarence jersey. She knows people expects the team to go to states every year. Expectations are high, and the players they get moved up to varsity don’t want to be the ones that don’t go to states. But, for Argentieri, the pressure never came from the outside. The pressure came from her self. Argentieri wanted to be the best. She wants to perform at the highest level possible. To do that, she knew she needed to be mentality tough. She didn’t want’t to be part of a team that broke the “streak” Argentieri relied on her teammates as they pushed each other every day to be better players, and people. “With Clarence having a winning record it does come with a lot of pressure, But the pressure I felt was what I put on myself to perform at a high level to do all that I could do to help my team compete at the highest level it could and be successful,” stated Argentieri. “The most pressure that I felt came from the drive to push myself to be a better player each time I got on the field.  Personally I didn't want to be part of the team that broke the streak of winning regionals and making it to states multiple years in a row. Having my “family” of teammates working together helped me manage the pressure I put on myself.”

With her high school career in the rearview mirror, Argentieri is able now to reflect on everything that she accomplished as an individual, and as a team. Like most athletes, Argentieri didn’t really pay attention to what was going on as the seasons went on. Milestones where there to be hand, but when you are playing during the season, you try and tunes out all other distractions. However, now that Argentieri is getting ready to move onto the next chapter of her life, she is able to look back at the great times, and memories, she had as a Clarence student and soccer player. “There are many experiences I will take away from my four years on the CHS varsity soccer team. Some are memorable moments; others have shaped my development as an athlete and person while other memories will help me in the future,” stated Argentieri. “The time spent with my teammates during practice, competing in games and the various emotions through playoff games over the four years has created a bond that will always be there between the girls I played with. We laughed, cried, and worked hard together, but also made the time fun and memorable. They were my family. From my experiences over the 4 year I have grown as a player, leader, and teammate. Being a part of this program has taught me how important it is to be a team on and off the field and to remember that we are all in together.” Now Argentieri will be joining a new family, with some familiar faces. As the calendar turns to June, Argentieri is getting ready to venture on to the next chapter as she will be playing soccer at Trine University. While soccer is playing a big part of her life, Argentieri knows how important academics is. She also knows soccer won’t be there forever. Going to college to be a physician assistant allows her to live out both dream. “I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life as I will be continuing my academic and athletic career at Trine University. As academics come first to me I am very excited to start working towards becoming a physicians assistant,” stated Argentieri.”As far as soccer goes I am looking forward to playing at the college level and continuing to grow as a soccer player. I am excited to see what is to come for me both as a player and in my academic career.”

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