T-E-A-M spells suc­cess for Al­covy

Com­pet­i­tive­ness pays off in 1-0 win ver­sus Her­itage

The Covington News - - SPORTS & LIV­ING - GABRIEL STO­VALL gsto­vall@cov­news.com

To an out­sider look­ing in, it might have ap­peared that Al­covy girls soc­cer coach Chris Ubri­aco had mo­men­tar­ily lost con­trol of his team.

Dur­ing a re­cent prac­tice be­fore Al­covy’s last game against Her­itage-Cony­ers, Ubri­aco was in­ter­rupted in his game plan spiel by a cou­ple of Lady Tigers who had some­thing to say.

Sev­eral play­ers de­bated on at­tack and de­fense strate­gies with the big game against its re­gion ri­val and next-county neigh­bors loom­ing. And to the un­trained ear, it may have seemed like there was some dis­sen­sion among the ranks. But there wasn’t. “Some­times you can’t talk, but you just have to play,” said ju­nior goal­keeper Daphne Ramirez. “But we’re all friends out here on the field, and we’re all there and wanna get bet­ter, so when we’re in prac­tice set­tings like this, it’s easy for us to talk and con­vey what we’re feel­ing. Like, I don’t think there’s a game that we’ve played that dur­ing half­time we don’t talk some things out. Ten­sions do get high some­times, but that’s just be­cause we’re com­peti- tive peo­ple.”

And the com­pet­i­tive­ness — as well as the ban­ter about strat­egy — paid off to the tune of a 1-0 win against Her­itage on March 30. It was a sweet re­venge sort of vic­tory, as it helped the Lady Tigers (7-5 over­all, 5-3 in Re­gion 2-AAAAAA) avenge a 3-0 set­back at Her­itage back on March 17.

It was a game that, com­ing in, Ramirez felt con­fi­dent about her squad’s bounce-back abil­ity. That’s be­cause she’s see­ing ca­ma­raderie start to take cen­ter stage among her team­mates.

“Team chem­istry is re­ally im­por­tant to me,” said Ramirez. “If you don’t gell to­gether on or off the field, you’re not gonna play very well. We are start­ing to fig­ure each other out, and I think it’s show­ing in how we play.”

The win gave Al­covy three vic­to­ries in its last four con­tests. It’s only set­back was a 1-0 home loss to Lake­side that hap­pened right be­fore the sec­ond Her­itage game. But even that game was one Ubri­aco wanted to have back. Now, with four games re­main­ing in the reg­u­lar sea­son and what seems to be a solid fourth place stand­ing in the re­gion, Al­covy’s start­ing to find out about it­self at just the right time.

“Some­times on a team, a lot of times you can have too many chiefs and not enough in­di­ans,” Ubri­aco said. “But with this group, I’ve learned that I’ve got a whole bunch of chiefs, and I’m fine with that. They all want to step up and get things done, and I like it that way.”

The lead­er­ship showed dur­ing an ex­change in that afore­men­tioned prac­tice where Ramirez spoke up in sup­port of her sopho­more team­mate Kaliya Eut­sey. Eut­sey has had to step up and fill a scor­ing void left by last year’s top goal scorer, Syd­ney Ziglar.

And from all ac­counts, it looks like Eut­sey is step­ping into that role nicely. When asked about her im­pact, Ubri­aco called her “a beast of a player.” Ramirez says Eut­sey is one of the best play­ers she’s ever played with — which may be why she felt the need to pro­tect the morale of her team­mate.

“I mean, last year we were very depen­dent on Syd­ney,” Ramirez said. “She was re­ally a good top scorer for us. Now we don’t have her, but

Kaliya, she’s one of the best on the team. She al­ways pro­duces a re­sult. But I think as a team, you can’t just al­ways de­pend on her, be­cause that’s not men­tally good for her. It’s not good for her emo­tion­ally or phys­i­cally ei­ther. We have to help her as a team.”

Ramirez put spe­cial em­pha­sis on the word, “we.” And al­though Eut­sey doesn’t mind be­ing a go-to player for her team, the sopho­more also ap­pre­ci­ates the fact that oth­ers around her want to find ways to pro­duce for the team as well.

“To hear her say that, it takes a lot off of my shoul­ders, ac­tu­ally,” Eut­sey said. “I like to hear them say that. I want to see us keep work­ing as a team, and not just pass it to Kaliyah and score. It’s great when other peo­ple get a chance, and not just let it fall on me.”

That doesn’t mean she isn’t a com­peti­tor who likes to have the ball in front of her in clutch sit­u­a­tions, how­ever. In the 1-0 Lake­side loss, Eut­sey spent much of the sec­ond half of the game al­most sin­gle­hand­edly push­ing the ball deep into Lake­side’s ter­ri­tory. It’s the game that Ramirez said was the first time it re­ally looked ob­vi­ous how much the team de­pends on her.

Eut­sey ac­tu­ally shot an as­sist to a team­mate for a game-ty­ing goal in that game, but due to an­other Al­covy player be­ing off­side, the goal was nul­li­fied.

Al­though no points pop­u­lated the score­board, the se­quence just showed how much Eut­sey’s of­fen­sive abil­ity and ball skill mean to the Lady Tigers.

“She’s had to step into a role up front that she’s used to in club soc­cer, but not here,” Ubri­aco said. “I don’t think I put her up top at all last year. But she’s the kind of player where ev­ery time she’s on the field, we feel like we have a chance to score.”

Iron­i­cally, Eut­sey feels the same kind of con­fi­dence about her keeper.

“Daphne is an amaz­ing keeper,” Eut­sey said. “She’s def­i­nitely fun to hang around with. She’s just a hot mess. There’s no­body who can re­place Daphne. It’s hard to de­scribe. You just have to watch her play in or­der to un­der­stand.”

Her coach has watched her over the last two sea­sons he’s been at the helm, and he un­der­stands per­fectly.

“Daphne’s just saved us so many times since I’ve been here,” Ubri­aco said.

But Ramirez nor Eut­sey cares much for tak­ing per­sonal credit. Both play­ers know they can ac­com­plish more as a unit than they can alone.

“We’re grow­ing,” Eut­sey said. “I think we could eas­ily be the top team in our re­gion right now. We play well, we’ve just got to put the ball in the back of the net. That de­pends on all of us, but on me too.”

And that team ap­proach is some­thing Ramirez is go­ing to make sure doesn’t get lost on her team­mates as the play­offs loom closer.

“We def­i­nitely have some play­ers who can pro­duce a re­sult, but when it’s a team, it’s not about just one or two,” she said. “It’s not 11 in­di­vid­u­als. It’s one team. So while I know that Kaliyah and oth­ers can pro­duce a re­sult, be­cause we’re a team, we’re ob­vi­ously not go­ing to make her, or any­one else, do it by them­selves.”

Gabriel Sto­vall | The Cov­ing­ton News

Sopho­more Kaliya Eut­sey ad­vances the ball for Al­covy dur­ing a re­cent soc­cer match.

Sopho­more Kaliya Eut­sey and ju­nior keeper Daphne Ramirez are key cogs in an ever im­prov­ing Al­covy girls soc­cer team.

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