The right fit
“The first time I walked into Mercy and the gym, I noticed that there wasn’t a soccer banner and I think that became a huge source of motivation for me well before I even started my high school career,” stated Bandura.
by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor
Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union (@GMSPhotoWNY)
Athletes like a challenge. They like to go out on the field and prove they belong, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the stage.
Mt. Mercy Academy’s Rosalie Bandura didn’t know what to expect when she entered last year as a freshman, as she was coming to a news school, and situation, during a pandemic. Not only was she trying to find her way academically, but Bandura was trying to make the varsity soccer team as a freshman.
And, not just make the team, but make an impact.
“Coming into high school as a freshman during a pandemic obviously brought a lot of challenges but Mercy has definitely been understanding and welcoming throughout the whole process. As a freshman last year, I was encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and grow as a person, student and athlete,” stated Bandura. “Now as a sophomore, I am able to build upon what I was taught last year and I am really excited to grow more as a student athlete. From the soccer side of Mercy, I have loved every second. I have been on many teams and played with many different teammates, but I really believe that this culture is truly special.”
Bandura doesn’t shy away from competition, she is used to playing at a very high level. She, like many other young girls in the Western New York area, has cut her teeth with the Western New York Flash - the premier travel team in the area.
There she has played, and trained, with some of the best soccer players in the area and beyond. That training has been invaluable as Bandura was ready to make the jump to high school soccer.
“Playing club soccer with the Flash has allowed me to practice at a fast paced environment and challenge myself by competing against the best players in the Ohio Valley Conference. Besides club training, I pride myself on working hard away from my teams and on my own,” stated Bandura.. “I have spent a lot of hours over the years working with Jason Collinsworth at PlayMaker Training and Jenna Raepple at Proformance Sports to help prepare on and off the field. They have always pushed me and given me the confidence to keep working towards my ultimate goals. Their belief and advice has meant so much to me.”
All the extra work Bandura has put inn has allowed her to succeed on the field for the Magic. She made the varsity team her freshman year - and hasn’t looked bad. In fact, making the team sat year was a big deal for her.
She wanted to be a four-year varsity player. She wanted to help this Magic team take that next step. Being able to get her feat wet last year allowed Bandura to get a feel for the game. She saw what she needed to work on in the offseason so she could compete at the highest level.
“Making varsity soccer as a freshman was a really big deal to me and to have the potential to be a four-year player at a varsity level is a super cool opportunity for me. Last year, I was really just trying to find where I would fit into the team and I was very lucky to have such supportive teammates that helped me to find my place. I was able to make a pretty big impact, leading my team in both goals and points, which was a massive accomplishment for me personally. I have always played as a "6" or defensive center mid with my club team, so learning to be more offensive has been a lot of fun,” stated Bandura. “I love the chance to be more creative on the ball. This season, I have had to change my game a little bit as I missed about eight weeks at the end of summer and all of school training camp after I tore the labrum in my hip preparing for the season. I'm still trying to get my touch and fitness back.”
Injuries aside, Bandura has been learning a new position on the fly during the high school season. With the Flash, Bandura plays more of a lying midfielder. She plays more defensive with the playmakers surrounding her.
With the Magic, she is the playmaker. If you see her play on the field you can see why. Bandura plays higher up the field with the ball at her feet more. She has the visions, and the soccer IQ, to be able to make the right decisions on the pitch.
In a recent game a tough Sacred Heart Academy team, Bandura, it seemed, was always in the right spot. While she didn’t cash in on the opportunity that she had in the first half, her movement of the ball showed what she can do.
It also made Sacred Heart guard her more, as they started putting more that one person on the talented sophomore.
“As a natural defensive midfielder, I am still learning how to start attacks and find the final ball into the forwards. Finding my place in front of the net consistently is also a newer thing for me so I’m still learning how to finish those chances. I have never been the strongest or fastest but I have always been an intelligent player and I have relied on my vision to guide me through games,” stated Bandura. “When I am playing my best, all of the little details just come naturally and when I just let my feet do the work, that’s when I am able to produce those game-changing moments. I watch so much soccer, from my younger brother’s games to all professional levels so I think that exposure of so many different players making different decisions translates into my own game. Overall, I am still just trying to figure out my style and what I can bring to each game.”
While only a sophomore you can see those leadership qualities coming out on the pitch. Bandura isn’t the screaming type of person, but she is one that leads by example. You can always catch her doing something with soccer - whether it’s watching the game or practicing.
Soccer is something that she just doesn’t enjoy, but she loves.
“During the game, I always try to play every minute the same. I try to train that way too. I try to be a leader on and off the ball and I always want to help my team achieve what we can. I am not afraid to go into any tackle and that aggressive style has always been a part of my game. I will go up against anyone,” stated Bandura. “I have never had the size or speed to beat some other players, but I have always made up for it in my work ethic and skill. On the ball, I try to be a confident player and showcase what I can bring to the game offensively. Off the ball I want to be a hard, physical player to play against. Anyone who has played with me or against me knows I am very vocal on the field too!.”
She is also competitive. While she was taking a tour of Mount Mercy Academy, Bandura noticed something interesting in the school gym. In the gym, Mt. Mercy hangs all the banners of championship teams. There is basketball, bowling, softball and hockey.
But, missing from the wall is soccer. The soccer has been close many times. Before they dropped down to the B Division, the Magic were competing with the likes of Nardin, Sacred Heart and Nichols for the Monsignor Martin Class A crown. The Magic made it to the semifinals a handful of times, and even made it to the finals.
As a B school, the Magic have made it to the finals again, losing to Cardinal O’Hara. This team has never gotten over the hump of winning a championship, something that hasn’t been lost on Bandura.
“The first time I walked into Mercy and the gym, I noticed that there wasn’t a soccer banner and I think that became a huge source of motivation for me well before I even started my high school career,” stated Bandura. “That was one of the major reasons I wanted to go to Mercy. To come so close last year to winning that title was truly heartbreaking for my team and I, and I think that has left a bitter taste in all of our mouths. It would be an amazing experience to finish out the season with a title. It's definitely a goal of mine to leave my mark on Mercy with that banner.”
It’s also not lost on Bandura that WNY has become a soccer hotbed. Never before as this area seen the kind of soccer talent that they have seen over the past couple years. There have been numerous young ladies that have gone on to play at the Division I level and beyond.
Just recently, Kelsey Araujo, who played for Niagara University and FC Buffalo, signed on to play in Paris before being named the Portugal U23 team. It shows the type of talent at is being produced in the area.
“Women’s soccer has grown so much over the past few years and it is really exciting to see all of the work this area has done to make it a priority. Many girls that I have played with, against and girls that I have looked up to are getting amazing opportunities to continue their careers at the next level,” stated Bandura. “It’s super inspiring to see girls that have been given the same chances I have, play at that collegiate level especially because it is definitely a goal for me. To have the chance to see and play against and with this competition everyday is something I definitely don’t take for granted. That's my goal to be one of those players and am hopefully on the way to becoming one.”