The Golden Age of Grace Soccer
Media provided by Jake Johnson ’25
The final whistle blows on the boys state quarterfinals game against Poly Prep. This whistle marks the end of the 2022 season.
Cut to August 22, 2022, the first day of soccer preseason. The girls and boys teams gather on the fourth floor, boasting with excitement for the footy-filled reunion to come.
The girls return to the pitch as reigning league champions, prompting grand ambition amongst the players. Different from last year, their 16-player crew has returned doubled in size; with a striking turnout of 30 players.
The boys, as per usual, had a turnout with great interest and enough players to stack a varsity and junior varsity team.
The excitement going into the season and the will from players to dedicate themselves to the sport for the next two months became apparent to the players and inevitably led the teams to reach achievements that had never been reached by the Grace soccer program ever before. Yet the season’s success cannot be attributed to only the skill of the individual players themselves; the success was rooted in the strong connections and dedication of the teammates.
In the end, the girls varsity squad made it into both finals despite having a substantial change in team management since last year. Nonetheless, the success had been expected, as the girls proved to be a mighty squad since the ‘21 season.
The 21-girl roster brought the heat right away, sweeping Léman Prep 9-0 in their very first match of the season in mid-September – followed by incredible wins against UNIS, Saint Ann’s, Dwight, and Calhoun, all within the first days of the season.
After an 11-win season, the girls faced tough losses in the finals of both the NYCAL and ACIS. The girls were coached by Coach O’Connor (O.C. as the girls call her) and Coach Kennedy. The vocal and incredible seniors, Amani A. ‘23, and Sarah W. ‘23 were on the front lines, keeping the squad in check. Amani commented on the team’s chemistry: “The team had built a support system, bonded from events that had happened, a connection that formed apart from a support system built around the coaching.”
The soccer pitch standing at 130 yards long makes it impossible to be dominated by a select player or two. It is crucial to have a tight-knit team to successfully progress down the field. Therefore, there is a large emphasis on a team’s chemistry, as Amani mentioned. For the Grace girls, this was no problem, as the team seemed to be closer than ever at the height of the season. This unity was reflected in their performance at their homecoming game against Trevor Day, where the girls came back from 4-1 at the half to win the game 5-4 in the end (a pretty remarkable comeback for non-soccer fans).
The outstanding tackles and clearances of the defense, the unstoppable runs and pressure of the midfield, and the goal-shattering finishes of the forwards all provided great success on the pitch. The girls truly outdid themselves this year, and no one is ready for the fury this powerful squad will bring to the pitch next season.
Yet the most astonishing and frankly unexpected result to come out of the season was the trailblazing run that the boy’s varsity squad accomplished. In 2021, the boys finished at the bottom of the bracket, with only two league wins — a disconnected team with very few committed players. Despite holding a lot of talent in 2021, the independent skill levels of the players meant nothing as the connection between them was weak. The boys bounced back from that unfortunate season, absolutely obliterating their competition and qualifying for the NYSAIS states tournament for the first time in history.
The squad began the season like no Grace boys had ever done before; beating tough competitors such as Riverdale and Dwight within the first week. The built-up anger and passion from a 2021 season gone to waste came through in 2022. The Grace boys took on top-seed teams such as Packer and Saint Ann’s in the regular season and finished with incredible results, from that 3-1 show at Saint Ann’s to the 3-0 clean-sheet win against Packer.
Upon asking Freddie O. ‘23, co-captain of the 2022 squad, what he attributed the success of the ‘22’ season in comparison to the ‘21 season, he briskly remarked on the importance of coaching to a team’s success.
“The coaching this year was incredible,” Freddie said. “Coach Kevin Brown assisted by Steele FC rose to the occasion and took charge.”
The change in head coaching from last season seemed to be the first step in the establishment of the team’s chemistry.
Freddie also touched upon the connection between the team: “We are like a family – we have each other’s backs.”
Again, proving the success of strong team chemistry. Coach Brown when asked about what he foresees on the future of this team as they will be losing key seniors, (Freddie O., Brando B., and Konrad B.) this year, responded: “I see great potential for next season, and each season to come.”
This incredible season seems to be just the beginning; big things are expected for next year.
As a school, Grace is beginning to be recognized more and more for their athletics. The impeccable seasons of the girls’ and boys’ soccer teams prove that this school has the potential to be a powerhouse in the sport.
As Coach Brown said, “Great potential for the seasons to come.” There is no disbelief in his words, as he was at the forefront of the boys’ success.
For the girls, interest in the sport grows each year, from a mere 16 girls in 2021 to 30 in 2022. The girls set the standard higher and higher each year with their growing dedication and their desire to win. That leaves us with the suspense of what is to come next season.
We will have to see next September, but it looks like the only way is up.