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Wanting to be the best

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Geoff Schneider/Sports Union

It’s never easy stepping in as a freshman and trying to compete for a spot on a tram that is always competing for Monsignor Martin soccer titles. Most freshman are just worried about finding their lockers on the first day of school, not about making their mark on the pitch.

Then you get those special players that just get it. They just know exactly what they are doing as soon as they step in between those white lines. They have an understanding of the game right away - and they don’t feel like the game is moving to fast.

Nardin Academy’s Genevieve Ricci had the opportunity to get her feet wet her freshman season for the Gators. She was able to learn from some of the top players on that team - players that went onto play at the Division I level.

That type of experience was big for Ricci as she has continued to grow as a soccer player, and leader, for a Gators team that has some unfinished business as they look to avenge their two-straight championship losses to St. Mary’s High School.

“Having the opportunity to play as a freshman on varsity, I was fortunate enough to practice and play alongside some of the best players and leaders at Nardin,” stated Ricci. “Playing with them pushed me to work harder, play in positions I wasn’t used to, and support my team. Now that I am in the position to help others who are just joining the team, I want them to feel excited and comfortable as they join the team and be as good of a teammate and leader as my Nardin team was to me.”

As a junior, Ricci will be looked upon more as a leader than she was in first couple of season. With only five seniors on the roster, the team is made up mostly of junior and underclassmen. Ricci wants to be able to take those underclassmen under her wing, and show then what it will take to comport at the varsity level.

Competing at the varsity level isn’t just about wins and losses. It’s about coming to practice everyday with the right attitude. It’s always showing up with a positive attitude whether or not you are starting or coming off the bench.

Building the right kind of atmosphere is what’s important for Ricci. She knows the right type of attitude and atmosphere can go a long way toward success.

“One of the most important things for me was the team dynamics and building relationships throughout the season. I really enjoyed our teammates, my coach, and just the positive and competitive environment,” stated Ricci. “I want to make sure that all the incoming players have the same experience. Building great teams often starts with strengthening relationships and trust, open minds, positive attitudes, and team bonding opportunities”

On the pitch, Ricci is a dynamic player that has a great understanding of the game. She can play in the open space, or get into small pockets where that may open up others players to run through.

It’s that type of thinking that makes Ricci dangerous on the pitch. She could easily get the ball and take it herself to score, or she knows that when the defender comes up on her she can just dish it off to one of her charging teammates.

“Throughout the game there are many times and chances to make plays but there are also times when checking into small pockets can create space for another teammate to run through,” stated Ricci. “Making plays doesn’t always mean you’re going to get the ball but the more movement you have as a team the more chances you have to score. Being aware on the field can benefit you and your team in making crucial plays and creating opportunities.”

When you think of Ricci you think of soccer. Soccer is her life, there is no offseason for her. If she isn’t playing for Nardin then she will be playing, and training, with her club team. For some that could be a lot of soccer, like a lot of soccer.

For Ricci it’s just another day at the office. She loves to go out there and compete day in and day out. She wants to get better everyday - and Ricci knows the only way she will do that is by playing with some of the best players in Western New York.

“Soccer has become a big part of my life and I always look forward to playing whether it's for school or for my travel team. During the off season it does consume a lot of time as we practice 4 days a week with games almost every weekend,” stated Ricci. “I really enjoy playing and spending time with my teammates, I love the competition, playing against challenging teams, visiting new areas and getting to play in many different states and I especially enjoy just being with my team, they have become like a family to me.”

Being a student of the game means watching, and studying, players all the time. That’s exactly what Ricci does. By watching other players in the WNY area, Ricci can see what she needs to do to get better.

She wants to be better, and she knows that they only way to be better is by wanting it every single day. There will also be players out there that are better, and stronger than her, but she has the drive to be better. She has the want to be great.

“Something I learned over the past few years watching so many great players here locally and in several games and competitions outside NY, is that you have to want to always get better and continue to push yourself,” stated Ricci. “There will always be players who are stronger, more skilled and quicker than you, but you need to be willing to look at those people and work harder than them. The only way to become a solid soccer player is by working hard. Especially playing with players who are ranked highly here in Western New York and outside the state, you need to be pushing yourself to be the best you can be.”

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