A hidden talent

When you look back on a career, it’s amazing at what one can accomplish. Some athletes are the luckiest in the world they get to travel to all kinds of different places.

With soccer becoming more and more popular in the states, many young men and women are getting opportunities they thought they may never get. For Maryvale High School’s Lexi Aquilino her summer was spent abroad.

While she wasn’t cracking the books, she was getting an education on the pitch. The senior, who plays her club soccer for Global Premier Soccer (GPS) was picked to be on a team that traveled to Denmark to take part in the Dana Cup.

It was a chance of lifetime and great learning experience.

“My trip to Denmark with the GPS Bayern National Team was an experience of a lifetime. I was able to compete at a very high-level and against teams from other countries,” explained Aquilino. “I believe this was able to give me a worldview of how soccer is played across the globe. Overall, playing in the Dana Cup allowed me to learn what it takes to be the best competitor you can be. This experience definitely has prepared me going into high school season because I know there are people always working harder and in order to end up on top, you have to keep digging deeper.”

Aquilino has been a star ever since she stepped on the pitch at Maryvale. She has honed her game with GPS, which even makes her even more dangerous. GPS teaches the European game.

They are about quick passes and reading the game, unlike the American game - which is more about using your athleticism and speed. It’s a different way of thinking, and the players who play for them seem to like where the club is going.

“GPS is an amazing club. When I first chose to play for GPS their extra opportunities really interested me, especially the national team program and it's international appeal. On top of that, they have solid coaches who are always willing to put in the extra work to get to know each individual player and make sure that each one is improving. I really love everything about the club in general,” stated Aquilino. “GPS has taught me so much and since playing for them I feel that my game has developed drastically. My movement off the ball is better, I'm more dynamic in front of goal, and my overall technical ability has increased. I was also able to make some of my closest friends through GPS which is a great bonus.”

Other teams in the ECIC probably wish Aquilino decided to play club full team. Because what she is doing to other teams in just ridiculous. For most of their games, Aquilino is the best player on the field.

Her skill is so much higher than most players and it has shown on the stat sheet. Aquilino is on pace to surpass a 100 goals. That is a remarkable feat for anyone. The way she attacks the goal she should easily break 100.

In a game against Pioneer, Aquilino scored a sick goal on an amazing bicycle kick. She made it look easy, but we all know it wasn’t.

“Reaching 100 goals is my main personal goal this year and a major milestone I want to reach, but on a scale of importance, the team goals always come first,” stated Aquilino. “If I can reach 100 while the team is doing well, that would be the best outcome.”

It’s that type of attitude that made Aquilino a captain as a sophomore. Being a captain is hard enough, being one as a sophomore is even harder. But, the coaching staff saw something in her that they felt would make a solid captain.

The staff has seen her grow up since joining the varsity as a seventh grader. They knew she could handle all the pressure that comes with being a leader on and off the field.

“As a sophomore, I thought I was young to be a captain but knew I had a good amount of soccer knowledge to bring to the team,” stated Aquilino. “Now, as a veteran on the team I think as a captain I'm able to be more of a role model for the younger girls and help instill the idea of hard work and determination in their minds already.”

It wasn’t easy. Aquilino had to learn on the fly. She will admit she probably made mistakes early on. But, she also realized that she needed to get the coaches message across to the rest of the players.

Players have a tendency to tune out coaches after awhile. It’s up the captains on the team to get them focused and ready for the next challenge - whatever that may be.

“Being a captain since sophomore year has really allowed me to develop my leadership skills,” explained Aquilino. “I've learned to always put the needs of the team before my own and that everyone must be on the same page in order to be successful. Taking on that leadership role with Karli Murray as a sophomore was something that allowed me to build my own character while helping others around me.”

Aquilino could easily play Division I soccer. She has the skill and mentality to be one of the best. But she will be headed to Division II LeMoyne - a very good college in Syracuse.

Maybe the reason why is that coaches looked at her height and figured she couldn’t play at a high level. If that’s the case then I don’t know what film they were watching. Aquilino can finish with the best of the them, and play with any top player in Western New York.

“My size is something I really don't think about once I get on the field, but it's also something I don't rely on,” she said. “I know that I'm not the biggest one out there, but I have faith in my skill and determination to allow me to be successful in front of goal. You won't see me powering through defenders but I am sure to use my technical ability and quickness to be successful in front of net. I'm constantly moving which allows me to find space and gaps behind defenders where I choose to penetrate and then attack the goal.”

Her knack for scoring could be because she drinks the same Gatorade before every game. Some people eat the same food - see Wade Boggs. Some don’t wash their uniform during a win streak.

It’s funny to hear the different stories of athletes and their well….umm….superstitions.

“I don't have any pre-game rituals besides eating a good meal, but I always drink the same flavor Gatorade (strawberry) during each game I play,” said Aquilino. “Funny story though, (sad for me) I used to drink Tropical Blend G2 until it was discontinued, but I still search for it and call Gatorade every so often and hope that it's back.”