Weekly Feature

2017-11-09 / Sports

Six programs represented on First Team

All-Bee Girls Soccer

Maggie Crosson (East Aurora), far left, Player of the Year Tess Ford (Williamsville East), Ali Jurkowski (Lancaster), Hope Balling (Tonawanda), Maya Palmer (Williamsville North), Emma Faso (Clarence), Cassie Bykowicz (Clarence), and Alyssa Lutz (Orchard Park) are recognized as First Team all-stars on the 2017 All-Bee Girls Soccer Team. Missing from the photo is Coach of the Year Doug Kircher (Williamsville North). Photo by Kathleen Kramer. Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Maggie Crosson (East Aurora), far left, Player of the Year Tess Ford (Williamsville East), Ali Jurkowski (Lancaster), Hope Balling (Tonawanda), Maya Palmer (Williamsville North), Emma Faso (Clarence), Cassie Bykowicz (Clarence), and Alyssa Lutz (Orchard Park) are recognized as First Team all-stars on the 2017 All-Bee Girls Soccer Team. Missing from the photo is Coach of the Year Doug Kircher (Williamsville North). Photo by Kathleen Kramer. Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com A vast array of talented players from six schools make up the 2017 All-Bee Girls Soccer Team.

The team, voted on by coaches in The Bee’s coverage area, includes two players from Clarence – will be playing in this weekend’s state semifinals - Tonawanda’s all-time leading scorer and a six-year starter from Williamsville North. Players from Orchard Park and East Aurora are also represented.

Here’s a look at this year’s First Team All-Bee Girls Soccer all-stars:

Hope Balling — Forward


Hope Balling has meant everything to Tonawanda’s girls soccer program.

The six-year player and five-year starter finished her high school career setting school records for goals (135) and points (221).

“She left a huge mark on the program and left it better than she found it,” Tonawan- da coach Angela Nicholas-Tolsma said. “She inspired others and made people around her better.”

Nicholas-Tolsma said Balling had a knack for scoring goals as evident by posting 27 goals, along with 21 assists, for 75 points.

“She finished in tight situations, and could shoot from range and on the dribble,” she said. “She was also physical and aggressive that once she was on the ball, it was tough to get her off.”

Nicholas-Tolsma said one game that defined Balling this season was the Lady Warriors’ 1-0 double overtime road win over Depew.

“She put the team on her back and got it done,” she said. “The shots were heavily skewed in our favor and Hope cranked a bouncing volley into the top corner of the net, which is incredibly hard to do, especially under pressure. That spoke to her leadership of not giving up on a play and finding a way to get it done.”

A two-year captain, Balling also led by example on the field.

“She was incredibly patient and did not get frustrated, especially when she was double and triple-teamed,” Nicholas-Tolsma said. “It set a good example for the rest of the team.”

Balling has verbally committed to play soccer at Canisius College.

Emma Faso — Forward


Emma Faso is a nightmare for opposing defenses.

The Clarence junior forward leads the Lady Red Devils’ offense with 19 goals and 11 assists, and could add more to her total when the Lady Red Devils play in this weekend’s state semifinals.

“She is relentless,” Clarence coach Dave Stephan said. “Her speed is a major factor and she is physical too so it’s hard for defenders to defend her because she plays at an unbelievable pace.”

Faso has already scored game-winning tallies in the postseason against Orchard Park in the Section VI Class AA quarterfinals and Fairport in the Far West Regional.

A team captain, Stephan said Faso is a vocal leader and “always has something to say in the huddle before a game.”

“She continues to surprise you,” Stephan said. “When you think she has got nothing left in the tank, she gets the ball and looks like it’s her first sprint of the day. She’s a special athlete that only comes along once in a while.” Maggie Crosson – Midfield

East Aurora

Maggie Crosson was a mainstay in the East Aurora midfield for the past four years.

The senior captain tallied 21 goals and 13 assists, and stepped up her scoring in the Section VI Class A-2 Tournament, tallying twice in Lady Blue Devil victories over Maryvale, 4-0, in the quarterfinals and Lewiston-Porter, 3-2, in the semifinals, and assisting on the team’s lone goal against Pioneer in the A-2 final. East Aurora finished 12-4-3.

“She had a fantastic year,” Lady Blue Devils coach Mark Nojaim said. “She’s a clutch player. She had superior vision on the field and scored when she got her opportunities.”

Crosson, who plays travel soccer with Global Premier, finished her high school career with 48 goals and 27 assists.

Ali Jurkowski — Midfield


Ali Jurkowski, a three-year starter and two-year captain, led Lancaster on and off the field.

“She’s an amazing leader,” Lancaster coach Chris Cownie said. “Last year she was named a sophomore captain, which says a lot about how much the girls look up to her. Whenever we needed a boost from a captain, she gave a pep talk.”

Cownie said Jurkowski played at a central midfield position “to get her around the ball as much as we could,” and tallied six goals and seven assists for 19 points.

Cownie said Jurkowski was a natural at heading a soccer ball.

“When it comes to winning punts or goal kicks in the midfield, you can count on her,” Cownie said. “She also had a bunch of header goals on corner kicks.”

Her final two goals of the season in Lancaster’s 4-2 win over West Seneca West were assisted by her older sister, Emily.

Cassie Bykowicz —



Coach Dave Stephan has high regard for junior central defender Cassie Bykowicz.

“I think she is the best defensive back in Western New York,” Stephan said. “She is very smart on the ball and technical. She’s strong, big and fast. She’s a special player.”

Bykowicz’s talent is one of the reasons Stephan only started three defensemen instead of four, which allowed one more player to play on offense.

“She takes the place of two players,” Stephan said.

The team captain has also been a threat on offense, tallying 10 goals and two assists. One of her assists came in Clarence’s game-winning goal in the Class AA Far West Regional. Five of her goals have come on corner kicks.

Maya Palmer – Defense Williamsville North

It is very unusual to have a six-year starter, but Maya Palmer was not an ordinary player.

The three-time First Team All-Bee all-star and two-time captain started at forward as a seventh-grader and the last five years on defense.

“She had great vision and anticipated the play very well,” Kircher said. “She always seemed to be in the right position at the right time.”

Kircher said Palmer’s role as a central defender was to help on the outside when a teammate got beat, as well as control the ball and distribute it to her teammate through the midfield. The North defense held opposing teams to only nine goals.

Palmer, a two-time team MVP, also scored a goal and two assists this season. She has verbally committed to play at Old Dominion.

Alyssa Lutz — Goalie

Orchard Park

Orchard Park was never out of a game as long as senior captain Alyssa Lutz was in net.

The three-year starter recorded an 88-percent save percentage and according to coach Mike Graffeo, “had a tendency to make a big save or two to keep us in a game.”

Examples include stopping a two-on-none breakaway and then stopping the rebound in a 12-save performance against Williamsville East, and making three point-blank saves in the first half as part of a 13-save performance in Orchard Park’s 1-1 tie with Clarence.

Graffeo also said Lutz is the “ultimate team player.”

“There were games that we were up in games that I put in our second-string goalie, and she was never concerned about her stats,” Graffeo said. “We have some young goalies in our program and she was so pleasant to work with and helped them the best that she could. She just wanted to win and never focused on herself.”

email: pnagy@beenews.com

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