Quiet leader brings skill to the field

STAR STRIKER: Stephanie Petsis leads by example, her coaches say. (FRANCIS CRESCIA/TOWN CRIER)

Lancer Stephanie Petsis sharp on both pitch and clay

Like a Franciscan monk observing a vow of silence, Stephanie Petsis is mute on the soccer fields and tennis courts, carrying her message in her in-game actions.

And the Leaside star striker plans her method of attack in all her sports, including volleyball, with hushed tenacity.

“I just watch where they stand at the beginning of the game and then if they’re up close the coach just tells our players to hit it over the defence’s head and that’s when I use my speed,” she said. “It worked out really well this year.”

Of course it did as the 18-year-old’s unassuming lead-by-example role carried the Lancers to champs of the South Region in soccer and in tennis, said soccer co-coach Patty Bontis.

“She’s a quiet leader, which is something that I kind of admire,” Bontis said. “I see her excel and do so well but her attitude is more of a modest approach.”

That modesty has come in handy in the face of adversity, as Chris Ujimoto has noticed, when Leaside’s footie-force failed to qualify for AAA OFSAA, losing 2-0 to Martingrove.

“She definitely wanted to go to OFSAA but she also realized that for a young team this was absolutely fantastic,” he said. “The kids definitely played beyond their ability in the sense that for a young team sometimes it takes time to get that maturity.”

Petsis also missed out on OFSAA for tennis, ending up playing the victor of girls singles tennis in the first round. Still, catgut did not get her tongue as she pursues a full sports scholarship to the States for tennis.

There’s no question to Petsis’ racket-wielding talents, tennis coach Cathy Lansdowne said.

“She’s very skilled and she just brings the level of play of her partner up to her level,” she said, adding Petsis went undefeated in regional and city doubles matches with partner Micha Powell.

One of four sisters, Petsis should really mean matriarchs of sport, as all the girls play tennis and soccer. Even mom Vivian always finds the time to get out to the important games, originally to the chagrin of her eldest daughter.

“At the beginning, when I was younger, I didn’t want her to come and do that, but as I got older I guess she’s just excited for us,” Stephanie said. “For some of the games I think it boosted our confidence.”

This year also provided Petsis with the opportunity to play with sister Thalia, which was met with tepid reviews early on.

“It was fun playing together though at the beginning it was harder,” she said. “But then we got used to it.”

Her solution to ease tensions among kith and kin:

“Because we got new players and not everyone got along … we just had to practise together and I got everyone to talk because it was really cliquey,” she said. “We just sorted everything out … and then it worked out because everyone is friends now.”

All the excitement of Petsis’ 2010, rife with OFSAA qualifiers, city championships and regional finals will be missed by her coaches.

“It’s really going to be tough to replace her because she was our leading scorer,” Ujimoto said. “Next year we’re going to have to look for a striker and those are definitely big shoes to fill.”

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