Chris Golden had to wear a brave face under the strain of tremendous grief. It wasn’t easy.
“I had to keep myself from crying,” he said.
That was the Southold/Greenport high school girls soccer coach’s mindset when he saw Grace Syron on Saturday. The previous day Golden received the news, via text message, that Syron’s mother, Kathy, had died on Friday morning. Golden, and the rest of the First Settlers, were hurting for Grace Syron and her mother.
“It breaks your heart to see a beautiful young woman as a person have to go through that type of pain,” Golden said of Syron, a senior center midfielder.
On Saturday, one day after the death of her mother, Syron reported for duty, so to speak. She was ready to play, and she did in a 6-3 loss to Babylon at Southold High School.
“She played her typical Grace Syron game — competitive, all-out, hard-nosed game — but you could tell she was hurting,” Golden said. “This is what she told me: She said that her mom would have wanted her to play. So, she was honoring her mom.”
The First Settlers rallied around Syron, an All-New York State third team player last year in Class C who co-captains Southold along with defender Annie Lincoln.
“This group of young women is the best group that I have ever been associated with in my 31 years of athletics,” Golden said. “The love and support that they have shown Grace, how they’ve rallied around her is something that should be emulated by any other team. They embody what a team is supposed to be. When one of your teammates is suffering, is down, you put your arm around them, keep them close and just offer whatever support you can offer.”
Golden also lauded Syron as a shining example.
“Grace has handled herself in this difficult time for her and her family in a way that … many people could not have handled it,” he said. “She’s carried herself with an elegance and a grace. It breaks my heart because she’s a phenomenal young woman, inside and out. She’s handled herself in such a manner that is nothing short of miraculous.”
Syron looked upbeat and cheerful, wearing her trademark smile Monday when she turned in another Syron-esque performance, scoring twice in a 4-1 defeat of Center Moriches at Greenport High School’s Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field.
“Grace is one of those perpetually upbeat, kind and compassionate people,” Golden said. “She really embodies all the wonderful traits of her mom. Her mom was a beautiful person inside and out, and Grace is a beautiful person inside and out.”
And a heck of a player, too.
Syron may have calmed Southold nerves 50 seconds into Monday’s match when she cut inside and blasted a right-footed effort that got the better of goalkeeper Allison Carpenter.
Syron later sealed the result with her fifth goal of the season. Jill Golden, the coach’s daughter, got her head to a Hannah Sutton corner kick and with the ball floating near the goal line, Syron headed it home with 9:29 left to play.
“You’re looking at one of the dominant players in our league, and not just from a physical standpoint,” Chris Golden said of Syron.
On Friday night, shortly before kickoff of the Greenport football game against Bishop McGann-Mercy, the Greenport players and coach Jack Martilotta walked to a fence near their sideline to shake hands and express their condolences to former player Keegan Syron, Grace’s older brother.
“Keegan has been a big part of the team for years and it’s tragic beyond words,” Martilotta said. “What a horrible thing.”
It was a surprise visit by Syron, a freshman playing for Hartwick College. He wore his old No. 7 Porters jersey while joining his former teammates on the sideline.
“They all love him and it’s a big family,” Martilotta said. “I mean, the football team is a big family. If anything happens to anybody, everybody comes together. Hopefully that made him feel a little better.”