By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
If there’s one thing coaches, teammates and opponents know it’s never to get between Stillwater’s Samantha Krysiak and the ball — especially in the box.
Her fierce attitude can be downright intimidating at times, but it can also lead to success. In fact, it’s that attitude — and a little help from her teammates — that helped Krysiak tally a school-record 15 goals, breaking the mark set by Maria Grados in 2008.
“Sam’s very determined,” Stillwater coach John Fields said. “Once she makes it into about that 18-yard area, she’s very fierce on the ball. She refuses to give it up. When some offensive players draw one or two defenders going into the box, they’ll give up the ball and not attempt to get it back. If somebody takes the ball from Sam, she made ferocious attempts to get it back. ... That mental attitude alone puts her up there as one of the greats at Stillwater High School.”
Ferocious wouldn’t exactly be the way most people describe the ever-bubbly Krysiak. But while she may be all smiles off the field, she’s as physical as they come on the field.
“You could tell just by watching her play she’s been coached well by her club coaches,” Fields said. “She’s just a really great offensive player.”
It took some time for that greatness to form, however. Krysiak struggled her junior year while transitioning from midfield to a forward but as her senior year rolled around she began to feel more comfortable in her new role and began setting goals — 15 to be exact.
“This year she verbalized that she wanted to set a scoring record this year, and she was going to be working extra hard for that,” Fields said. “In the preseason she talked about it a lot. She came into (the season) in excellent shape with an attitude of helping to push her team a little farther. In order to do that, she knew she had to pick it up offensively and she committed to that and really made it happen this year.”
Krysiak may get a lot of the credit — and justly so — but she also had a little help along the way. After all, soccer is a team sport and without a doubt her teammates did play a big role in assisting Krysiak toward her goal.
“She wouldn’t have done that if her teammates hadn’t really helped her out,” Fields said. “You don’t set a record like that by yourself. Your teammates have to help you out. They have to pass the ball to you and be giving. I know she was very appreciative of that.”
And with the season winding down, it was those same teammates that knew exactly what that goal meant to the senior. Even with no hope for Stillwater’s already incredible season to continue to the playoffs, all the hard work in the offseason — the hours of blood, sweat and tears — it all came down to one final game.
“I think that says a lot about what her teammates think of her,” Fields said. “She had teammates that were more than willing to give up opportunities for shots and lay the ball off to Sam in that last game. They knew that she was close. Sam didn’t go out and say, ‘Hey, I’m close. Give me the ball.’ Her teammates think so much of her that they knew she was close, and because she’s part of that team her teammates wanted her to have that record.”
Krysiak may have set the new single season mark for the Lady Pioneers, but Grados will always hold one record over her — most career goals.
Even so, Fields said it would be hard deciding which player goes down as the all-time best Lady Pioneer soccer player.
“That record was held by probably the greatest all-around player we’ve had at Stillwater High School, Maria Grados, but it’s definitely a big accomplishment for Sam,” Fields said. “It’s hard to compare the two. The year that Maria played, she was such a skilled player that we essentially built an offense around her. Her style of play was much different than Sammy’s. Sammy’s play is built on just sheer determination combined with a high skill level.”
Krysiak may not go down as the greatest player to ever wear a Lady Pioneer uniform, but after leading her team to an eight-win season and finishing her career as a member of one of the winningest senior classes in school history, Krysiak has nothing to hang her head about.
If nothing else, she’s raised the bar — albeit slightly — for the next batch of Lady Pioneers.