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Published: October 15, 2008 10:30 pm     

GIRLS SOCCER: GI goes on the defensive

By Nate Beutel

GRAND ISLAND — Defender Jeannie Taylor kind of laughed it off, but goalkeeper Kristin Wegrzyn wasn’t joking around.

“She’s saved my butt a couple times this year,” Wegrzyn said. “Actually, the whole defense has been amazing. They’ve been a rock for us.”

That’s an incredible assessment considering the Grand Island girls soccer team has one of the top offenses in Western New York, averaging over five goals per game. But it’s an assessment that has helped the Vikings stay atop the Niagara Frontier League standings and in line for a shot at their ninth consecutive league title today when they visit fellow unbeaten Kenmore West.

“With so many first-year varsity players stepping up on the back end ... they’ve just exceeded my expectations,” GI coach Dave Bowman said. “They’re incredibly talented, but they proved to me right from the first game that they could do the job.”

Wegrzyn has anchored the defense from the goalkeeper position with her communication and play. The junior credited former GI goalie Allie Weiser for helping make her the player she is today.

“She was my inspiration,” Wegrzyn said of Weiser. “I always wanted to be like her.”

Like Weiser, Wegrzyn has been blessed with a strong core of defenders including Taylor, Sara Wilczek, Mia Magliazzo and Jessica Mysliwiec. She’s also had the luxury of having a solid reserve keeper in Sara Palazza, who has picked up her own fair share of shutout minutes.

Taylor, a sophomore, said the adjustment to the varsity has been pretty seamless due to the extensive travel soccer schedule most of the Vikings play. She also agreed with her coach that the defense’s confidence sky-rocketed after shutting out Rochester-powers Mercy and Aquinas.

That said, Wilczek admitted that GI “scared themselves” against West the last time the two teams meet. The tilt finished in a tie, but Wilczek is confident that this time around will be a different story.

“We’re really excited for this game,” she said. “With our talent and intensity we can win.”

And the Vikings don’t expect the wins to stop there, with sectional success and more on their minds.

“We have a saying that goes respect the past and represent the future and we want to play like that,” Taylor said. “We feel bad when we lose, so we’re doing everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen again (this year).”