Few freshmen get the opportunity to play on the varsity soccer team. Even fewer get the chance to play for a varsity soccer team that posts an undefeated regular season record.
But that’s exactly the chance Gig Harbor’s Alyssa Gray had a season ago. She made the most of it, making an impact for the Tides and soaking it all in.
Now, she’s taking on a larger role for the Tides up top and in the midfield.
“My mindset is basically just to feed off the others, learn a lot from them, like I did last year when I came up,” Gray said. “And just to build the confidence to be able to play with them and have them push me to be a better player.”
Gray scored Gig Harbor’s lone goal in a 1-0 win over Peninsula on Sept. 19 at Roy Anderson Field. Her combination of speed and physicality, as only a sophomore, makes her a difficult matchup for opposing defenses.
“Her mentality is just strong for the ball,” said Gig Harbor coach Stephanie Cox. “She reminds me of (Gig Harbor grad and current Seattle University forward) Leahi (Manthei). She just wants to get after it and put herself out there on the line. You can see her speed and athleticism out there against any player. She’s exciting to watch. She’s just so dynamic.”
Gray has been an instant fit in the team, from not only an athletic standpoint, but from a team chemistry standpoint as well, earning the respect of her teammates as an underclassman.
“When I get out there, I just play,” Gray said. “My teammates are very supportive of anyone who’s on the team. If they’re on the team, they deserve to be on it.”
Cox, who played for the United States women’s national soccer team, sees a budding star.
“She’s great on the ball, she can shoot from distance,” Cox said. “The exciting thing is that she can just develop as a soccer player with the kinds of runs she can make, making the right pass, her decision making on and off the ball. I think she’s willing to learn and she’ll continue to grow as a young player.”
But Cox also sees room for growth with Gray, tampering the expectations slightly.
“I definitely communicate with the players,” Cox said. “I think I think that no matter how talented they are at the high school level, they still have a lot to learn.
Cox referenced a game earlier this season, when she moved Gray to an attacking midfield position. Gray struggled initially to adjust. Watching the next game from the sideline with an injury, the mental part of the position clicked.
“She said, ‘I got it now, I see it,’” Cox said. “You could tell that (against Peninsula), she just felt a little bit more comfortable in there. You can already see that growth from her. She definitely adds a lot of versatility. She can play in the midfield, she can play up top, play out wide and just knowing how to do those positions well.”
Gray’s goal is to play in college. Cox is committed to making that dream a reality.
“One of my goals as a coach is to help players achieve their goals,” Cox said. “So I think that she definitely can play at the next level. I just think she needs to continue to develop as a soccer player. I think the coaching staff we have can help her do that.”