Up for the challenge
By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union
Finding a role on any team is tough. Finding a role on a team that is talented and loaded as the St. Mary’s High School soccer team is even tougher. But, everyone has a place. And everyone has to fight for their place on the team.
It would have been easy for rising sophomore Mia Moore to just go to a different high school and play that sport that she loves. She could have easily been the big fish in a small pond. But she wanted the challenge of competing for a starting spot on the team.
Moore knew it wasn’t going to be easy. She was one of nine other freshman coming from the Western New Flash to play their high school soccer for St. Mary’s and coach Brittany Heist. Moore knew the girls from the Flash, and she knew the challenge that was in front of her.
Moore never backed down from the challenge, instead she embraced it and showed everyone what she could do on the pitch.
“Finding my role was sort of a struggle at first. There was 10 of us coming to St. Mary’s freshman year, and I knew finding a spot on the team would not be easy because of how competitive all of us are,” stated Moore. “Playing for the Flash really helped me improve and become a better player and definitely helped me throughout the high school season. Playing for Britt previously at Flash also made it much easier to play a role on the team.”
For as good and talented as Moore is, you could say that she is actually overlooked - and maybe even a little underrated. Players like Shae O’Rourke (sophomore), Gabby Gambino (sophomore), Samantha Carlson (senior) and Skylar Baun (senior) have grabbed a lot of the headlines over the past two seasons.
But, Moore is comfortable with her spot on the team. While other teams are focusing on those four, Moore can do her thing as a wing player - and a very dangerous wing player. She is sneaky quick and can read the game well.
She has everything you want in a player who plays the wing. She can score, like she did in the championship game against Nichols, or she can pick out the right person - with the right kind of ball.
“It is much easier because we as a team know how other teams are planning. They have their defense man mark Shae and that opens up the outside of the field for players like Gabby to play wide or drive into space and shoot,” stated Moore. “It is easier for me because I play out wide so receiving the ball and knowing that other teams defense’s main focus is Shae gives us the opportunity to utilize the width and combine around the other team.”
Moore is part of a sophomore class that has rewritten the record books in just two years. The Lancers are two-time regular season Monsignor Martin champions, and this year added the post season crown.
While seniors like Baun and Carlson will be leaving to continue their careers in college, this sophomore class is ready to take over the leadership role that those two have held down for the past couple of seasons.
Players like Moore want the responsibility to lead this team to the next level. This year they lost in the state semifinals. Moore wants the burden on her shockers and feels that she is ready to handle whatever comes her way.
“I’m prepared and excited to handle more of a leadership role. Getting the team where we need to be is a group effort that we are all skilled enough to do,” stated Moore. “The sophomore class will make up a majority of the team when the seniors graduate, and we are all very prepared to take on leadership roles. Most of us will be filling the starting positions for the next two years. We are all natural leaders in our own ways.”
Leading in her own way means getting this team to the next level. After finally knocking off rival Nichols to win the Monsignor Martin playoff title, Moore and Lancers got their first taste of the Catholic State tournament.
The tournament didn’t go as planned as they let in nine goals in a 9-5 defeat. It was a learning experience for this young. Moore, and her teammates, where able to see the type of competition that they will face if they get back there again.
It also gave Moore and chance to self evaluate herself. While St. Mary’s took care of business in Western New York, this was an entirely different animal.
“This season was very exciting and a good experience for all of us. During our preseason we played some of the more competitive teams in the area like Grand Island and Hamburg. I think succeeding in those games gave us a lot of relief for our league games knowing that we are still a strong team after the loss in the finals last season. Going to states was a very fun experience for all of us. I think we all felt our hard work during the season paid off and we got the chance to go play at states which none of us had ever done before,” stated Moore. “The experience at states was a first for all of us and I think we knew what to expect. We lost in the semifinals to the team who ended up winning states, and seeing that there were other teams in the state who had players just as good as some of us was fun. It was competition we as a team have never played before. The atmosphere was great and as a team I feel that we all improved.”
Improving play means getting a chance to play at the next level. This is why Moore plays the game. She wants to play at the highest level possible. All this years playing club, and now high school, will lead to hopefully getting the call from a college or university saying they want her at their school.
Moore knows there are people in stands watching every game that she plays either for the Flash or St. Mary’s. She knows that all eyes are on them when they compete against some of the better WNY schools like Grand Island and Hamburg. She also knows that she can’t let that bother her. Moore just needs to play her game, and the rest will take care of itself.
“If you don’t think about the college coaches and just play your game, it makes it a lot less stressful during games,” stated Moore. “A lot of the times we don’t even know they are there and playing at our highest level is expected either way.”
Playing at the highest level is expected from Heist. She knows that it takes to get the job done on and off the field. She was a standout player for Lancaster High School. She played in the Empire State Games (think Olympic type competition within the state). She had a very successful career at Boston University.
She expects a lot from her players.
Moore also doesn’t buy into pressure. She is as cool as they get on the field. She knows what he job is as a student-athlete. She knows that for her to make it to the next level that she will have to be at her best both on the pitch and in the classroom.
For Moore it’s not pressure. It’s just another day at the office.
“The pressure of being successful does not really affect me because my team is really supportive and encouraging. We push each other to be the best players we can be and we know each game is a team effort,” stated Moore. “The only obstacles that ever affect us as a team is if someone has an off day or we don’t have a good warmup. Preparing for games is very important because we know other teams want to beat us.”