When it came to back-to-school shopping, Kristen Young drew the line at soccer spikes.
No need to replace her size 7.5 Nikes that carried her and the Orchard Park High School girls soccer team to last year’s Section VI Class AA title.
She’s not superstitious, she just knows what feels good, and nothing felt better than the Quakers winning their first title in 16 years. “They fit perfect, I don’t want to get rid of them, we’ve been doing so well, there’s no point,” said Young, of the footwear she’s worn for every game and practice the last three years.
The Quakers will take function over fashion every time if it means they can continue their winning ways. The team is off to a 3-0 start with a statement-making 3-2 win over ECIC I contender Clarence on Friday. Two of the OP goals came off the seasoned shoe of Young.
Young is in her third season on the varsity. She scored in both games last year against Class AA runner-up Williamsville North. She’s constantly working to get open, is seldom out of position and appreciates the importance of doing the little things right. Her first goal this season came on a corner kick in which she was exactly where she was supposed to be.
Often a team in the hunt, OP is slowly becoming the hunted. For years OP would look at its schedule and see teams like Clarence, North and Kenmore West looming.
“We’d like to get the point where we’re the ones other teams worry about,” said coach Mike Graffeo. “Last year’s team kind of got us to a new level. We have to make sure people don’t like playing Orchard Park. ‘They’re so fast, so good.’ We want them to have the mindset when they get off the bus they know it’s going to be a hard game, they’re going to have to scratch and claw every minute, it’s going to be a battle.”
The roster has just four seniors, but Orchard Park still believes it has the winning formula. Graffeo said most of his juniors have passed up invitations to play on premier club and travel teams to play with each other in the offseason. It has resulted in a team chemistry of trust as well as talent.
The Quakers, also winners of ECIC I, graduated seven from a 16-2 team who had started for multiple seasons. Replacing that depth and experience won’t be easy.
“We told our girls we can’t be last year’s team, but we can be as successful,” said Graffeo, now in his sixth season. “Those girls aren’t around to do it for us, we need the new girls to step in so it’s not just once-in-an-every-16-year event.”
Up to the challenge will be senior Tia Saunders, a three-year starter, who will be asked to provide quality minutes at center defender.
Another three-year player, Emma Saul, can play forward or midfield.
OP awaits the return of senior forward Cherylee Kuerzdoerfer, who left the Clarence game with a knee injury. She had three goals in her first two games, and assisted on the first goal against Clarence before her exit.
Orchard Park opened the season with a 3-1 win over Mount Mercy. A 5-0 win at Jamestown followed before Clarence came to town.
The Quakers’ next start is tonight under the lights against Grand Island at 7 p.m.
“We have a new standard for what we should be trying to achieve,” said Graffeo. “We just have to put the pieces together. I’ve got a feeling when we finally figure it out, we’re going to be playing some good soccer.”
No doubt the Quakers will be putting their best foot forward.