One player who already had established herself as an impact performer and a younger one who surprised herself in a new position have earned All-New York State girls soccer honors.
Southold/Greenport junior defender Grace Syron and Mattituck freshman striker Claire Gatz recently were named to the state third teams in Class C and Class B, respectively.
Syron secured a spot on the team for the second consecutive year after being a fifth team selection in 2015.
“She has a passion and desire to win,” Southold coach Vaughn Locascio said. “After games we would sit down and talk about the game tactically and adjustments we made. She was analyzing the game more as a player, discussing it and applying it to her game.”
Syron anchored the Clippers’ defense with her vision, physical play and ability to move into the attack when called upon.
She finished with seven goals and two assists, superb numbers for a defender. Two goals came off a pair of 30-yard free kicks in a 4-0 win over Stony Brook on Sept. 13.
“Each year she seems to improve technically and tactically,” Locascio said. “This year I saw a more tactical and leadership growth. Her tactical awareness defensively and attacking was the best I have seen from her in the three years. She organized the back line well and took her chances getting forward.
“She is aggressive and fearless while keeping composure and knowing when to make a tackle or delay the attack. She is not afraid to play aggressive or win tackles, either. This is evident as she wins the ball in the air, wins tackles and plays with poise in the back. Many of the girls on the team look to Grace for guidance and [she] gives a sense of calm and confidence to the other players. Defensively, one v one in our league, she is one of the best that I have seen play.”
But there is much more to Syron than being a three-sport athlete (she also plays basketball and softball).
“More importantly, Grace is just a great young lady,” Locascio said. “She genuinely cares about her teammates and is a leader. She is lighthearted and has a great sense of humor. I cannot believe she will be a senior next year. These years have gone by quick, but I look forward to the year ahead. She is a pleasure to coach and I am glad she plays for us.”
Goalkeeper Hayley Brigham was named to the all-county team and forward Jill Golden (nine goals, three assists) was selected all-conference.
Gatz was one of four freshmen in the state honored and the only one in Class B. After playing midfield for the Tuckers as an eighth-grader, she was moved to striker, finishing ninth in Suffolk County scoring and second among Class B players with 15 goals and six assists.
“I just wanted to improve from last season,” Gatz said, “I wanted to score … my first varsity goal. I was planning to play center mid. I wasn’t thinking of playing striker. Obviously, it was a lot different than what I thought it was going to be. I didn’t think it was going to get anything like this.”
She found the back of the net in nine matches, recording hat tricks in wins over Smithtown Christian and Stony Brook.
“I learned I can make more of an impact than I thought I could,” Gatz said. “I could be the difference in a game.”
Despite her productive season, Gatz saw plenty of room for improvement.
“I would like to improve one v one skills and getting off your shot quickly,” she said. “Those are really important things. Just everything in general, too. Just sharpen it up.”
Gatz has goals for 2017, but it wasn’t just scoring them.
“I want to grow on this year,” she said. “I want to become more of a team leader.”
Photo caption: Mattituck freshman Claire Gatz pictured against Center Moriches in the playoffs. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)