Crestwood girls soccer had a relatively successful season as they took another step in the right direction as a program.
They are just two years removed from having no girls soccer because of a lack of numbers, so the Lady Knights needed players ready to step up to lead the way. Now they're heading into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed from Region VI-3A.
Enter striker Giselle Ramirez.
The junior scored 25 goals in 16 games for the Lady Knights and on a lot of nights served as the only offensive production when it came to finding the back of the net. Ramirez has had games netting four, five and six goals. For Ramirez, it was just about stepping up into her role on the team.
"My role was a little bit harder this year, but I was happy to go through it," Ramirez said. "It's a great feeling because most of the games in the region we won. I like the pressure that comes with it. It gives me strength, and it feels exhilarating."
Crestwood head coach Jonathan Ray didn't want to see a one-woman show offensively but was happy to see Ramirez make the most of the situation.
"I knew how talented she was coming into this season," Ray said. "This year, I was hoping to get her more help up top. Not trying to take away from what we have forward-wise, but last year, if we could return some of the players that we had, that would've been big. We have one player that couldn't play this season due to injury, and that put a big hurt on us. I'm glad to see Giselle take on that big role because I knew that the offense was going to have to go through her."
Ray loved the way Ramirez embraced being the player every team game-planned to stop.
"She took that in stride. Every game I'd talk to her to see how she's doing and how she's feeling and tell her what I needed from her. She would look at me and say, 'All right, coach, I've got you.' Then she just went out and performed," Ray said. "She's super talented, and other teams noticed that. So they would send two or three defenders at her, and she would still find ways to just score and help us win."
Ramirez is from Honduras and doesn't speak English as her primary language. The language barrier presents some challenges, especially when dealing with such a vital piece of the team's success, but Ray has some help with communication.
"It's very touch and go," Ray explained. "She understands what I'm saying, but if I'm trying to hold a conversation with her outside of using just a few phrases, I have one of my other soccer players who speak both languages help me out. This is really my first time as a coach having to coach kids that don't speak English fluently, but there's also a kid on the boys team that primarily speaks in Spanish.
"We still joke around and everything. We have our laughs, but it's more like soccer related. I can joke with her about a few times when she messes up. There is good banter there; she'll cut up and laugh. I can tell when she's frustrated with herself because she'll start speaking in Spanish really fast. But overall the coaching part doesn't change. She knows when I'm trying to be serious, and she can key in on that."
Ramirez still has one more year of playing for Crestwood and is excited about putting in the work to get even better. Ray is hoping that with her presence up top, the Lady Knights can make a push in the SCHSL 3A playoffs next week. They'll open with a trip to Aynor on Tuesday.
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