Championship chemistry: Off-field friendships spark Grand Street girls soccer • Brooklyn Paper

Championship chemistry: Off-field friendships spark Grand Street girls soccer

Experience matters: From left, Stacy Guaman, Neja Cruz, and Elizabeth Zahuantitla highlight a strong returning core for Grand Street girls soccer this season, anxious to make a run at a city title.
Community News Group / Laura Amato

They are family.

The Grand Street girls soccer team walked onto the field for practice last week, but the Lady Wolves didn’t immediately start running drills or going through formations. The team held a party.

It was head coach Andre Lamy’s birthday and before the squad got practice underway, the players wanted to make sure they celebrated. It’s that kind of bond the Lady Wolves hope translates into games this fall, a family-focused sentiment that keeps the team together no matter what obstacles it faces.

“The bond is terrific,” Lamy said. “I’ve known these girls from back when they were in junior high. They really respect me and the vision. It’s terrific to see. It’s a great atmosphere.”

The Lady Wolves don’t boast much senior leadership this season, but that doesn’t mean the team lacks experience. Grand Street returns 12 players and is led by its junior class this fall — a group that racked up the minutes last year and averaged a little more than six goals a game.

“I think our attack is really good,” said junior forward Elizabeth Zahuantitla, who netted 22 goals last year. “Especially with having my wings up there. I’m technically the only forward up there. Attacking is a really big thing for me. That’s my job, so the wingers push the ball up towards me and help me score.”

The chemistry on the Lady Wolves’ front line — as well as its midfield, led by Stacy Guaman — will be key to the team’s success this year. Grand Street is determined to prove how important that bond is, particularly after an early postseason exit last year, falling to Beacon in the quarterfinals.

“It definitely helps in building [the program],” Lamy said. “We’re definitely stronger this season now, and I think that it’s going to help catapult us to the next level.”

The Lady Wolves are confident heading into the season, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t aspects of the game the squad is looking to improve.

Grand Street’s defense is young this season, and it’s been a challenge to build that all-important chemistry as first-year players try to find their roles.

“On defense, we do need a little bit of work, but it’s nothing that can’t be done,” junior stopper Neja Cruz said. “There are a few returning players, but there are a lot of new players too. So that first week or so it was a little bit confusing for us. But the girls caught up really quick, and we’ve kind of settled in.”

The Lady Wolves are no strangers to success. The team won a Brooklyn title twice in the last few seasons, but this year, Grand Street is looking for a bit more.

This year, when the season wraps up, the Lady Wolves are hoping to stage a different celebration on the field — a championship celebration — and the team knows the only way to make that happen is by working together.

“We’re all really close,” Zahuantitla said. “So when we’re out there on the field, we’re able to relax and remember it’s just a game. We really do motivate each other.”

More from Around New York