T-E-A-M spells success for Alcovy
Competitiveness pays off in 1-0 win versus Heritage
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.”
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.