Top dog

Scorers know how to score. That’s a pretty simple statement, but also very true. Goal scorers are paid to put the ball in the net. If they don’t they usually find a seat on the bench next to the coach.

Strikers rarely make an excuse. They know if they are scoring at an alarming rate, that double and triple teams are coming. But, yet, they still somehow find a way to put the ball in the back of the net. The mindset of a striker is a lot different that others on the team. They know it all rest on their shoulders. The love pressure. They need the pressure.

Calista Heister knows all too well the pressures that comes with playing the striker positon on the pitch. She has been the leading scorer for a very good Olean High School team, and routinely faces double and triple teams.

That hasn’t stopped her, however, from scoring her 100th goal earlier this season. Even with everybody knowing she will get the ball, Heister still makes thing happen. That’s what goal scorers do - they score goals.

“I get double or triple teamed most games, which is similar to the pressure I receive while playing with the Flash. One of my jobs as a forward is to find ways to get open and make runs at the right times,” explain Heister. “When I have two or three people on me, there are always teammates open, so a lot of times I can find them as support. Also, when multiple players collapse toward me, it leaves a lot of space for me to run to when I do get free.”

Even with more than 30 goals this year for the Huskies, Heister still can get frustrated at times. Playing the position is not for the faint of heart. All the success and all the disappointment usually falls on the forward.

They are the ones being looked to lead the team to victory. If they don’t score, the team usually looses. That’s just the nature of the breast. Even if she does have a solid game, Heister can still get flustered over the missed opportunities she created.

“Playing forward can be stressful at times because you feel like you let your team down if you don’t score, but I like the pressure that comes with the job. The pressure keeps me motivated, knowing I can help my team win if I can score or find a teammate to score. I have always loved playing forward and running at defenders, so I don’t mind any pressure that comes with the position,” she said. “I have learned to be very patient on the field. If I miss two shots in a row, I know to relax and focus on the next shot, because I might only get a couple chances in a game. I know that I have to capitalize on every opportunity I get.”

That includes playing for her club team the Western New York Flash. The Flash are one of the premier travel teams in the area - and they know a few things about sending kids on to the next level.

For Heister there is no offseason. Soccer for her is 12 months year. If she isn’t playing for the Huskies then she is suiting up for the Flash in the ECNL - which is a top league in the northeast. Players who take part in this league - and do well will be looked at.

“I don’t have an off season because as soon as my ECNL season ended, high school was starting. My Flash team still trains on Sundays, even during the high school season. For the past four years, whenever I have a day away from team practice, I train with Aaran Lines and Alex Sahlen,” stated Heister. “I drive an hour and a half each way, sometimes 5-6 days a week to train. We work on my finishing along with Maddie Pezzino from Florida State and Meghan Root who is committed to Syracuse. Also, I train with Ben Woods from STA at Sahlens. Those sessions with STA help build up my muscle before the ECNL season starts.”

Colleges sure did notice her accomplishments. Even playing in the Southertier like she does, Heister still put up big numbers and was getting the recognition she deserves. When she had a chance to commit to the University of Pittsburg it was a dream that finally came true.

A change to compete against teams in the ACC is hard to pass up. Heister will be able to test herself against some of the best players in the country every single game.

“I was really happy when I committed to Pitt, as it was always my dream to play in the best league. I did feel some pressure was lifted once I made the decision, but I also know that committing is only the beginning. I have to keep working hard, so I am at my top level when I arrive there. Now there is maybe even more pressure to perform really well when I get there. I just push myself to work harder so I reach my full potential,” she said. “I always wanted to play for the highest level I could perform at, so when ACC schools showed interest in me, I was really excited. One of the reasons I was attracted to the ACC is that I’d be playing against the best backs in the country. When I met the coaches at Pitt, I immediately felt comfortable around them. The coaches, facilities, city and of course being in the ACC were the leading factors in my choice.”

Now the real work starts for Heister. She has committed and is ready to go, but she still needs to prove herself even more. That’s what drives her. She always wants to be the best. She never wants anyone to get the upper hand on her. Heister wants to make sure she takes on the defender and not the other way around.

This is why she plays for the Flash. This is why she plays in the ECNL against some of the top players. This is why she drives almost two hours from Olean to practice. To be the best.

“Playing for the Flash has helped me tremendously over the last three years. Especially playing in the ECNL this past season, my speed of play increased, which also carries over onto the high school field,” stated Heister. “At the Flash, a lot of focus is spent on our work ethic. We are taught that there is always someone who is going to work harder than you. On the field we play against the top ECNL players in the country, forcing us to make quicker decisions. Also, off the field, I focus a lot on nutrition to prepare for games, as recovery is crucial.”

The girl from a “little” school in Olean in doing big things in the soccer world. And, now everyone is taking notice.