BY MICHAEL KELLY
LATHAM — Offseason? What offseason?
That’s the attitude for many high school athletes, who work around the calendar improving their skills, regardless of whether their sport is in season.
Case in point, the number — five, to be exact — of Niskayuna High School girls soccer players competing for the Alleycats Soccer Club U17 team this winter, a club team that Marika Contompasis, Sarah Cook, Hannah Munro, Stephanie Tate and Rachel Walsh have been playing for since their Silver Warriors season ended with a loss in the 2014 Section II Class AA semifinals.
“We usually start practicing for this the week after the school season stops,” Munro said at a recent Alleycats practice at the Afrim’s Sports Dome.
“It goes full-year round, but we enjoy it, so we don’t get tired of it,” she added.
That’s the kind of attitude Niskayuna varsity head coach Bryce Colby likes in his players, who he likes to hear have been playing in the offseason.
“I have a saying I use with them,” he said. “What I tell them is ‘Don’t just get bigger; get better,’ and by saying that . . . what [I mean is] I don’t want for them just to get older or bigger during the offseason, don’t just assume you’ll get better. . . . I want them practicing and playing; I want them on a ball, because — all things considered — technique and skill are the number one qualities I want.”
Colby’s offseason work with his players won’t begin until the summer. During the winter and spring, the Niskayuna girls who play for the Alleycats are coached by Brian Bold, who is also the varsity coach at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
“It’s nice because I get to coach some of the highest-level kids in the area in this group here,” Bold said of the Alleycats.
The club team is made up of players from around the Section II landscape. During the regular season, Bold said he does his best to not let his personal relationships with his club players interfere with his Spartans soccer.
“Soon as a match is over, though, [the Alleycats players] are the first kids that come over to me,” he said.
Walsh said the relationships formed with the Alleycats help to make Suburban Council action more meaningful for the five Silver Warriors who play regular-season games against their club friends.
“Since we play for Niskayuna, we play against these girls all season, and then we get to see each other after the games,” she said.
The Alleycats play in a women’s indoor league during the winter and a highly competitive travel league in the spring that takes them throughout the Northeast. They also go to regular showcase tournaments that give them exposure to college coaches and programs.
While the competition is top-notch, Contompasis said the best thing about this year’s club season for her has been getting the chance to rehabilitate a lingering foot injury she suffered at the end of her school season.
“I’ve been really working on my fitness since I missed some time,” said Contompasis, who explained she had to skip the first several weeks of the club season.
The Niskayuna girls are used to having success. Besides playing in the 2014 semifinals, the five Silver Warriors playing for Bold this offseason were all members of Niskayuna’s Section II championship team in 2013.
With the Alleycats squad continuing without major changes from a year ago, Contompasis said familiarity should breed more success in the coming months for the Niskayuna players.
“It’s really nice playing with the same people from the past two seasons,” she said. “You can tell you have a better connection.”