Athlete Spotlight: Burr and Burton's Grace Pinkus
Soccer is in Burr and Burton senior Grace Pinkus' blood and it's evident in how comfortable she is when she's steps on the pitch.
Her senior season has been one of the best in the state and her efforts have keyed many BBA wins this fall.
This week, the Banner talked to Grace about her success on the field, her inspirations in life and where she sees herself going forward.
Banner Sports: Your team has a had a great season so far, and individually, you have 20 goals. What's been the key to your success throughout the season so far?
Grace Pinkus: Having a good mindset going into the season was super crucial because we lost a lot of good players, pretty much our whole starting lineup. It's a complete new group of people, so going into it with a positive attitude that we can still be the team that we've always been known to be. It was a rough start with our scrimmages, but once we got everything figured out, it kind of just went from there.
Banner: Being a senior leader on the team, did you take on a role to show some of the younger girls what BBA girls soccer is about?
Pinkus: We only have four seniors and I'm the only captain of those four. Being the only senior captain, everyone was looking to me. Having a year before this has kind of prepared me for it, to work with some of the [past] senior captains and going through the ropes of it and how they deal with it. It helped being a two-year captain.
Banner: It's clear when you step on the field that you love the game of soccer. How did you fall in love with the game?
Pinkus: Definitely my dad. He played for the "Under 20" South African national team and he's from South Africa originally. He went to England at 19 to play with Crystal Palace and then played in the states. It's been there throughout his life and my older sister Hannah is probably the biggest role model so far in my life. Her playing with my dad was something that I wanted to be a part of. The three of us grew up playing together every day. It's something that brings us all together.
Banner: Hannah obviously has an incredibly important role in your life. What was it like growing up with your sister in the game of soccer and to play with her at BBA?
Pinkus: My freshman year, her junior year, she tore her ACL, so that was a bummer because we only had two games together [that season]. Her senior season with me, it was amazing to be on the field with her because we had grown up playing, but never got the chance to play together until that year.
Banner: I know you play club soccer, on top of playing at BBA What's it been like to compete against some of the best players, not only in the region, but across the country?
Pinkus: I play for FC Stars in Massachusetts and Elite Clubs National League. Playing for them has been unbelievable. We're traveled to showcases in Florida, Arizona and California. Just before the summer ended, we were out in San Diego where we had lost in the national quarterfinals. That was a great experience. Playing with that high level of players has definitely risen my level of play here and there especially. It got me exposed to some high-level schools. There are national team players and commits to huge schools. Being able to play with them has been great.
Banner: The FIFA Women's World Cup was this past summer, were you watching it? Any players that you look up to or pattern your game after?
Pinkus: Yeah, I watched. Their level of play is insane and being able to make connections to my team that there are players that are playing at the national level is cool to watch. I love Alex Morgan and Mia Hamm, they're hard-working soccer players. Mallory Pugh is one of the youngest players on the national team, and being able to play that young, she's just so good. I look up to that, that she's so young and doing so well.
Banner: BBA girls soccer has such a winning culture that [Bulldogs coach] Suzanne [Mears] has created. How is that culture and the expectations for BBA year in, year out?
Pinkus: My freshmen year I came in and I had never experienced the level [of play] of the girls. There's so many expectations that you come in and you work hard. [Freshman year], we absolutely worked our tails off and made it to the state championship and won, and the next year, made it back to the state championship game. Suzanne implements [the work ethic] every day. First day of tryouts, [she says] this is what we have and this is what we do as a program and if you don't want to be a part of it, that's fine. Being able to be a part of that culture that we've created, I'll carry with me forever.
Banner: You committed to UMass Amherst last fall as a junior. How did you come to the decision to continue your athletic and academic career there?
Pinkus: I got exposure to them out in Arizona at a showcase. I went to UMass for a camp and I absolutely loved the campus, the coaching staff and the team. I kept going to camps and I got my offer and decided that this was the place I wanted to be. Colgate, where my sister plays, came in, so it was really hard to decide, but I ended up choosing my own path. It was definitely the right choice. [UMass'] level of play is rising with this new coaching staff. It's exciting to see and be a part of. [Ed. note: UMass is 16-10-3 across the two years Jason Dowiak has been head coach.]
Banner: Being that your team is having such a strong year and have competed with some of the best teams in the state, do you feel like you guys have what it takes to get back to the Division I state championship game?
Pinkus: I definitely think we can and we're trying to get the rest of the team to believe that. With there being so many young players, the confidence level isn't all the way there. Every game that we play, they get more confident on the field and off the field. We can be there. We can play with CVU, Essex, Burlington and Colchester. They're all big, scary names, but when we play them, we can hang with them. If we luck out and get some home games in playoffs, we could definitely be there on the day of the state championship.
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