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Lady Warriors Add Grit to Their Game

Grit. You hear the word a lot in sports, but what does it mean?

Most will say it’s a way to define toughness. The will to win. It means when every thing is on the line you find a way to dig down deep and play tougher than you ever have before. As the Tonawanda Lady Warriors entered the 2016 soccer season there was absolutely no doubt they had the skill to compete with anyone. Two games in, the Lady Warriors have also shown that there is plenty of grit to balance out the skill.

Setting the tone for the Lady Warriors will be captains senior Sydney Kowsky and junior Hope Balling, who had three goals in Tonawanda’s 5-2 win over Medina in the opening round of the Dan Durick Tournament that was played at Clinton H. Small Stadium on Aug.26-27.

Both ECIC IV First Team selections, Balling (forward) is one of the most dangerous scoring threats in WNY, while Kowsky will anchor what should be a strong defense in front of 6-foot-1 senior goalie Haley Schoelerman. All three are in their fourth season of varsity play. With Balling up top and Kowsky on the back-end the Warriors have the plus of always having a voice of leadership on both ends of the field.

“I think it sets the right tone for everyone,” Sydney Kowsky said after the opening win. “We actually got to see what each other can do together and I think we pass very well together. We have good connections with each other.”

Tonawanda reached the Section VI Class B title game last season, but dropped a 2-1 score to Wilson.

Lady Warriors head coach Angie Nicholas firmly believed one of the major factors in that game was Wilson using their physicality to push Tonawanda off the ball.

Which is why Nicholas focused on more physical one-on-one drills during training camp. Junior Nicole Lorich has displayed the physical game the Warriors will need, while fellow unior Samantha Farrell, though used in more of a reserve role so far, with her rugby background also brings the toughness Tonawanda is looking for.

“I told them you can’t let them breathe,” Nicholas said after the Medina game. “Right from the start you’ve got to jump out there and get a hold of it. Just really seeing the aggression, not only physical, but the excitement and ‘the want’ to win the 50-50 balls and ‘the want’ to keep the ball. It’s just really exciting to see.”

But make no mistake, the Warriors are still a very skilled team with plenty of soccer smarts thanks to returning players like senior Sydney Taylor and junior midfield/forward Taylor Hollock.

The Lady Warriors soccer I..Q., has risen dramatically in their younger ranks with the addition of young guns Baylin Tighe, Hanna Hamill and Zoe Oliver. Tighe is an eighth grader who will play outside back. Hamill (stopper) is a freshman who found her true calling as a defensive gem last year on JV. Oliver, another freshman, scored her first career goal against Medina on Aug.26.

“It was amazing. Just to be able to get out there for the first time,” Oliver said. “Just being with all of the girls, the older girls and being able to play with them.” Oliver, whose goal was set up by Balling, said that she, Baylin and Hamill truly appreciate the way the older girls have welcomed them in.

“They support us, they cheer us on because they know we are young than them,” Oliver said.

Though Sacred Heart blanked the Lady Warriors 7-0 in the title game, Tonawanda is still expected to be among the top ranked small schools in WNY.

Heather Henderson, Kelsey Pohzehl, Alexis Verrall, Katie Snyder, Brianna Lograsso, Dayna Daugherty and Samantha Kurdziel are also on the roster. Senior Hannah Strassburg has opened the year on the I.R. , due to a knee injury.

They will open ECIC IV play against Holland, Wednesday at home, 7pm start.

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