Seizing the opportunity
By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos courtesy of St. Bonaventure Athletics
Making the jump to the next level is never an easy one - it doesn’t matter how talented you are. Some of the greatest players in history have struggled when they made the next step from either high school to college to college to the professional level.
What worked in high school that made them a star might not be working in college. In soccer it could the fact that a player was so much better than a lot of the other players that it just became too easy.
The college level has some of the best players in the country, not just from their local area. They are going up everyone’s best and the competition gets raised. No college season or career is ever a bust, words that athletes don’t like to use or hear.
They end up finding a niche in college, and it might not be the same one they played, or where used to, in high school.
St. Bonaventure University soccer player Sydney Cerza has had a solid career from the Brown and White. While her stats might not have lived up to what she did when she was torching fields while playing for Clarence High School, it was still a career she proud of.
“College soccer is a huge step forward from high school soccer. In high school, our team would score 5+ goals a game where in college soccer an average score for a game could be 1-0, 2-1, etc. There would be some games where we would only score 1 or 2 goals while some games we wouldn’t even score. The competition at the college level is so much more competitive that goals do not come as often in college,” stated Cerza. “I have had to make my game quicker and take better advantage of the shots I am taking. In college, you may only have a split second to get a shot off, so I have trained to play quicker so that I can get that shot off. Also, there are not as many scoring opportunities at the college level opposed to the high school levels, so I have had to improve on the power and accuracy of my shot so that I can take better advantage of the opportunities I get.”
A gifted scorer, Cerza was the dominating force during her high school career for the Clarence. She was part of a very exciting team that sent many girls to the play Division I soccer. In college, her chances have been few and far between.
For a striker, she may only get one or two opportunities a game. In high school, Cerza could take the ball from 25 yards out and dribble in and beat the keeper. That isn’t the case in college.
Even with her struggles not scoring in college on a constant basis, Cerza hasn’t let that frustrate her. She is still going out there and working hard every single day whether she has 20 goals or one.
“It can be tough in college when the ball is not ending up in the back of the net as often as you would like, but you have to remember that the competition you are playing against is so much higher than in high school. The biggest thing for our team is to not get down on ourselves and each other and keep working. We have to be focused and ready to go every day at practice and just know that if we are putting in the work, it will make us better,” stated Cerza. “On my team, it doesn’t matter who scores, as long as the ball gets in the back of the net so as a goal scorer, I have had to realize that there are other things in the game that create results. As a midfielder this past year, our coach had us focus on winning 50/50 balls, connecting key passes, finding gaps in the defense, etc. I feel like ever since we started focusing on that, the goals started coming. We started to work on the process of getting the ball to the net opposed to just scoring and it has helped us get more goals as a team but also for me individually.”
This season is a little different for Cerza than most. While it is her last for the Brown and White, Cerza also had to rehab from a stress fracture she suffered last year. Never wanting to miss a match, Cerza played on the bad shin all season long, only to find out that it was fractured in November.
So, it was a different offseason that most. This offseason she spent time on crutches before finally being able to get back to a normal routine.
“This summer I had to adjust my training differently to what I usually do. I developed a stress fracture in my shin last season and played on it until the end of the season to find out that it was fractured. I was on crutches for six weeks in November and December and had to come back to activity very slowly. As of now I am only allowed to run three days a week and have to take recovery days so that it can heal properly,” stated Cerza. “I am cleared to be full, which will be seven and a half months without soccer. Once July hit, I planned on training as much as my body allowed me to. I am hoping to play in a pick-up league and train at Proformance Sports Training again when I am all healed. As much as I would like to jump right into training this summer, I had to do things a little differently and take care of my body.”
This will be Cerza’s last season. Of course every senior thinks about that it is like to play in their final game, but they won’t admit to it. It has been a heck of a ride for a girl who started playing the sport at such a young age.
Now in just a few short months Cerza will see her career come to and, at least as a player. She still wants to stay in the game and plans to coach at some point in her post college soccer career.
“It is so weird to me that after all of these years of soccer, it is going to be over in 5 months. Although my playing career will be over, I plan to coach soccer. For me, sports have been such a major part of my life that I can’t give them up which is how I ended up going into physical education. I hope to pass on my passions and knowledge of soccer to all of the athletes I coach,” stated Cerza. “I try not to think about what my final game will be like because it is hard for me to comprehend that it will be over soon. I have been around the sport so much that I need to be around it after my last game even if it is not playing. The thing that will help me move on is knowing that I have all of this knowledge about it that I can pass on to the athletes that I plan to coach.”