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  • Matt Ondesko

Something to prove

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Canisius College Athletics

A player with something to prove is a very dangerous thing. They want to show the world why they are good enough to play at the next level. Athletes will tell you that they don’t play with a chip on their shoulder.

It’s all coach speak.

Athletes have something to prove. Whether it is because they came from a small school and didn’t play the “best competition” or because they felt they were overlooked the entire process. Either way, athletes play with a chip on their shoulder.

Canisius College sophomore Madeleine Sowinski feels like she has a lot to prove. While she is living her dream of playing Division I soccer, Sowinski knows it wasn’t easy. She came from a smaller school at Cardinal O’Hara where basketball and football where center stage.

Soccer was kind of an after thought, which made it hard for players like Sowinski to get noticed on the biggest stage.

“I think coming from a small school that didn’t push to get recognition for their athletes other than football and basketball made me want to prove to myself that soccer players deserve that credit too,” stated Sowinski. “Being the top scoring player at O’Hara was very bittersweet for me - I solely kept track of all my goals from my freshman to senior year. Due to the coaches and athletic department not keeping records, they denied me from being able to hold that title. This experience made me want to prove myself even more and change the landscape for the girl soccer players behind me.”

If she is change that landscape it will be because of the hard work she has put in through the years on the pitch, Heading into her freshman season at Canisius, Sowinski knew it was going to be a different challenge mentally and physically.

She was no longer going to be the go-to person like she was at O’Hara. Now she needed to find a role that fit her. It was a role that she wasn’t used to.

Coming off the bench isn’t easy for any athlete. Playing in only 68 minutes as a freshman, Sowinski  had to pick her spots, and she needed to try and contribute as much as she could right away.

it wasn’t easy. Averaging six minutes a game is never easy - especially when you are out there to score goals.

“It was a tough realization for me, from going to scoring at least a goal in a game to fighting for minutes and my spot on the field. I felt that going through that helped me being more mentally strong and helped me find a drive in myself I didn’t realize I had before,” stated Sowinski. “I’ve always pushed myself to be the best player that I could be, but this made me want it more than I ever have before. This transition makes you realize how much you have to really want to be on the field and how much fight you have in yourself. You’re not only fighting to play for yourself, but you’re also fighting for your team to try to do the best you can for your teammates on the field.”

Sowinski is used to play against some of the best the country has to offer. While she played her high school soccer at O’Hara in the Monsignor Martin, she played her club soccer for the Western New York Flash, the premier club team in WNY.

Being able to play, and train, against some of the best competition helped her get ready for the grind of college of college soccer. She knew is she could make a difference for the Flash, that when her time came, she could easily make a difference for the Griffs.

“Playing at The Western New York Flash, I got to play at a high level in the ECNL for arguably the best premier club in the state. Being able to play against very skilled players from all over the country at this level helped me play in an environment easily translatable to the level of college play,” stated Sowinski. “I was very fortunate to be able to play at the Flash, being trained and prepared for college soccer, by some of the best coaches in the country.”

Now with a year under her belt, Sowinski is ready to compete for a starting role. She has worked extra hard this summer honing her game, and working on her fitness. While she could dominate the high school landscape, Sowinski knew she needed to change up her game and routine to be able to compete in college.

Sowinski also kept that pressure on her to be the best. With limited minutes she knew she might have one chance to get it right. She knew there wasn’t going to be a lot of touches on the ball. She also knew that is a competitor. And competitors compete, that’s what they do.

“This summer, my main focus is building my endurance and confidence in my game. Trusting myself is something I felt that I lacked the past season, but to put myself in the situations I want to be in, I have to push myself to be in the best shape I can be in,” stated Sowinski. “As a player, I feel like I have always put a lot pressure on myself to make the biggest impact that I could. During my freshman year, I felt like I had to increase this pressure to show to my coaches as well as my teammates, that I could handle whatever was thrown at me, whether that would be being able to go harder in practice or to get more minutes on the field.”

If there is one thing that Sowinki does know how to do it’s score. After all, a player just doesn’t fall into 100 plus goals without knowing what they are doing. Sowinski has a nose for the net, and she hopes in her second year with the team she will be able to contribute more.

Sowinski wants to show the Griffs that she is the same player that was recruited out of Cardinal O’Hara and WNY Flash. She wants to show them the ability that she had during her high school career. Goal scorers score goals and that’s what she does.

“I think my ability to score goals and find shots in difficult situations on the field is my strong suit as a player. To get the opportunity on the field to be able to show this part of myself is something I have to work and train hard for. I have to push myself in practice and outside of practice to get time on the field to help the team in the best way I can, scoring goals,” stated Sowinski. “Being a forward, I think that it’s very important to have the foot skills necessary to get around skilled college players. It’s just as necessary to have the confidence to use the skills you have. Going one on one against experienced college defenders can be nerve racking, but for me I had to trust in my foot skills that I was good enough to win the battle. Getting into the right position and making the right run into the box is a key part of the offensive game. As a forward, your team has so much trust in you to get into the right positioning in the box and the final third, it’s a vital part of the game.”

As her sophomore season is already underway, Sowinski has some of her own personal goals she would like to reach, One of them is getting on the pitch more and helping her team get to the MAAC tournament.

She knows to do this, she just needs to keep working hard and taking what she learned last year and applying it to this season. She has that chip on her shoulder and after her freshman year it could be getting bigger and bigger, which isn’t a bad thing.

“My goals for my sophomore season is to make myself a much bigger presence on the field, become a more vocal player, and to get back to scoring goals in games. I have to push myself as hard as I can to reach these goals and I intend to do nothing less. I want to prove to myself that I can be the player I want to be,” stated Sowinski. “From my freshman season, the biggest take aways I had were to trust myself and to listen to the advice from the older, experienced girls on the team. I found that there was many times that I didn’t have confidence and second guessed myself that lead to me playing “safe”. Trusting yourself as a player can be a tough thing to do when put in a high level of soccer and around more developed players, but it’s a critical part of any player’s development. Being apart of the Canisius team, I feel that it’s such a supportive group. All of my teammates are always willing to give advice and help work on drills outside of practice.”


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