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South's Plezia finds the extra motivation

by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

Photos: Geoff Schneider: Sports Union

There are a lot of things a player has to endure during the season. The passing of the coach usually isn’t one of them.

There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Williamsville South Billies girls soccer team last year. For one, the team was very young, and lacking some of the experience needed to make a run for a section title. The second was the passing of their long-time coach.

Losing their coach had a mental affect on the team in the beginning of the season. It wouldn’t be easy trying to move on after such a passing. The mental, and emotional, grind it took on some of the players couldn’t be put into words.

For Ava Plezia she grew up a lot, both as a player and as a person. She took on more of a leadership role something this young team needed at the time.

“I think last season, being a sophomore on a very young team, I knew I needed to help with leadership the best I could. The beginning of the season was mentally and emotionally very hard for us with the passing of Coach Mac,” stated Plezia. “He was so loved. Also not knowing who our coach was until our first game was challenging. But the team showed character with our strength. Being someone who had known Coach Mac since fifth grade, I was very close to him.”

Plezia used the passing of her coach as motivation. He was someone who had a lot of faith in her as a person, and player. Everything she learned, she learned from him.

So, when the season began, Plezia was ready to go both mentality and emotionally. She was ready to have the best season of her young career.

“That definitely motivated me to continue to make him proud and to lead the team. He taught/coached me for two seasons as an eighth grader and freshmen,” stated Plezia. “I’m so thankful for that. He taught me how to be a leader and I think that was definitely the main reason why I went into the season with such confidence.”

Plezia has been waiting for this moment. The moment where she will be looked upon in a leadership role. Ever since she stepped on the pitch, Plezia has been gearing up for the moment.

When she was a young player, Plezia would look up to the underclassmen for leadership and guidance. Now that she wears the “C” on her jersey, Plezia hopes the younger players will look up to her.

The most important thing for a team is their culture. As a leader, Plezia will make sure everyone is alway involved and included.

“I’m so excited! I’ve been working towards a leadership role ever since my first year of varsity. As an eighth and ninth grader I was always looking up to my captains and leaders,” stated Plezia. “I always saw them as role models and people I would look up to on and off the field. That being said, I want to make sure while being a captain that the players on the team look up to me the same way. I think the most important thing about a team is their culture. Being a leader I want to make sure everyone is always included and involved.”

Over the first couple of seasons, Plezia’s work on the field has done the talking. She has been a dominating force on the pitch - scoring goals at will, and leading her team in goals (29) and points (69).

When it comes to scoring goals, it’s all about making those runs. Plezia makes sure she times her runs to put all the pressure on the defense. She has been putting a ton of work in during the offseason to make herself the best striker possible.

It also helps that her coach is one of the best to ever put on the jersey in Carissima Cutrono. Cutrono had a very stellar career at Williamsville South before going on to UB. Her UB career was cut short by injury, but she was reborn playing for FC Buffalo.

“As a forward, obviously making the right runs and making sure they’re onside is a huge aspect to the position. For me it has taken a lot of work these past few years to know how to time my runs and where to run to,” stated Plezia. “This is something I’m always working on to make sure I’m capitalizing on all of my opportunities. I’m still continuing to practice my movement off the ball to create chances for my team.”

She has been nothing but spectacular for FC Buffalo, and the fact that Plezia gets to pick the brain of a person like that is just invaluable.

“I’ve found watching Carissima’s movement with her FC Buffalo team to be so helpful to my game,” stated Plezia. “It's super important for each player on a team to know how each other plays and what their style is. My team does an excellent job of knowing when to play the ball through to me or to play to my feet and run off of me.”

Plezia also sets a very high standard for herself. She gives her team all the credit for making her look good on the pitch. The team sets her up with perfect balls most of the time. All she has to do is finish.

Going into the season, Plezia sets a goal for herself when it comes to scoring goals. She doesn’t mind putting all the pressure on herself to be the one the team leans on. She has worked hard to keep all the noise out of her head once the game starts.

“Being a forward, I always set a high standard for myself each season. One of the reasons I score goals during my high school season is because my team does an excellent job playing balls for me to run on to or to my feet,” stated Plezia. “At the beginning of every season I set a goal to score a certain number of goals by the end of the season. I put a lot of pressure on myself to reach this goal and I do my best to not let anything get in my head. Keeping all the noise on the outside is something I have gotten good at and definitely will continue to work on each year.”

Plezia is a soccer junkie. If she isn’t playing high school, Plezia is playing for her club team, the Western New York Flash. Being able to play for the Flash has helped Plezia improve her game. She gets to play against some of the best players in the country throughout her season.

“Playing club for the WNY Flash ‘07 ECNL team has had a hugely positive impact on my life,” stated Plezia. “The level of competition with the elite coaches has made me the player I am. We train hard three times a week and it gets me into the right mentality to have the drive to maximize my potential as a player. I don’t like to rest a lot and I’m extremely competitive so no off season is good for me.”

She also gets to play in front of college coaches when she goes to these showcase tournaments through the club season. P{laying in front of college coaches could be nerve wracking at times.

But, it’s also exciting. Plezia gets to show these coaches what she’s made off but on and off the pitch. She is used to seeing coaches on the sideline, so now she just goes about her business and plays her game.

“Playing in these college showcases against strong competition from all over the country has helped me realize where I should be as a player and what my strengths and weaknesses are compared to some of the best players in the country. It’s inspiring and humbling at the same time,” explained Plezia. “Playing games in front of college coaches is nerve wracking but is also super exciting. This past season was a huge recruiting year for me being a 2025 graduate. As my club season went on, I got used to seeing college coaches on the sidelines and I learned how to play my game and not worry about who’s watching and who isn’t. Being an athlete who aspires to play division 1 soccer, I think this past season was an amazing learning opportunity. During the season I learned to focus on the game and what I need to do to showcase my strengths while not worrying about who’s watching.”

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