YOUNGSTOWN – Some say she complains too much to referees, holds the ball too long, or is too harsh on her teammates. Some say she’s even harder on herself. But those who really know Sarah Woods say she’s just ultra-competitive.
When it comes to football, the Lewiston-Porter senior demands excellence – from her teammates, from her coaches and most importantly from herself. Woods focuses on the laser in his quest to be great on the soccer field or in the weight room, in training and at games. His motivation is so relentless that some of his coaches fear burnout.
Sure, Woods can bark at an official or teammate during a game, but most know it comes from a deep desire to win and to be great in the process. Without Woods’ fiery demeanor, the Lancers would not have won a Class B Section VI championship, let alone reached the Class B final.
After being the only Section VI player with 30 goals and 30 assists this season – tying Rosie Luzak’s 21-year school record with 94 points – and named Class B State Player of the Year, Woods has was chosen as the Greater Niagara Newspaper Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year.
âI think it’s just me who’s competitive,â said Woods. âSometimes maybe I should be more respectful to the referees, but I also know the other competitors know it’s just me who really want to win. â¦ When people demand more of me, it prompts me to be better next time. I feel like everyone being intense and pushing each other has worked out pretty well this season.
Woods is aware of the reputation she has gained as a talented player with a competitive streak that some opposing coaches and players don’t appreciate. Throughout her four-year college career – the first to do so under head coach Norm Forney – Woods has tried to dodge the reputation of being a selfish player, almost like she dodges defenders. .
Forney doesn’t like the idea of ââWoods being a me-first player, pointing to evidence in his stats. Woods’ 204 career points are second to Luzak’s 289 in Lew-Port history, but she’s had more assists (70) than goals (67). Woods was also the Section VI leader for assists this season.
âShe is the most competitive player I have ever coached,â said Forney. “… She sees things on the pitch that I don’t even see on the sidelines and it has a lot to do with how well she is able to move the opposition with her dribble.”
Raging competition fire
At the start of the B1 class semi-finals against East Aurora, Sophie Auer was unable to pass a pass to Woods which would likely have resulted in a scoring chance. Woods softly yelled, “What was that?”
Moments later, Auer had another chance and delivered a perfect pass to Woods for a goal. There was no hesitation, no hard feelings. And when the ball hit the back of the net, Auer sprinted to catch a Woods leaping into his arms.
Woods saw the game play out before it happened and knew where to go if the ball could hit his foot. But frustration washed over her for a brief moment. The teammates know how competitive Woods can be and how dangerous she is with the ball. They also know that they should never take these moments seriously.
âNo one has really approached me about this. I think they all know that’s how I am, âsaid Woods, who signed to play for the University of Buffalo next fall. âWhen I’m harder on a person I’m usually mad at myself and think they all know it. I think they’re just like, ‘I’m just going to handle this now and work to get better.’ They all know what’s going on in my head.
If those moments were too deep, teammates might be reluctant to pass and even more reluctant to celebrate. Woods was the first player to mourn when the reality of a loss swept over Lew-Port following his loss to Bronxville in the Class B final. In return, the teammates were quick to deliver. hugs of condolence.
When Forney tweeted congratulating Woods on her 200th career point, Auer shared a heartfelt message expressing how much she enjoyed playing her prolific teammate, with the hashtag “UBisgoingtoloveher”.
âThe teammates see this passion and they don’t want to disappoint it,â Forney said. âI have had teammates who break down and cry because they fear Sarah is mad at them. Not because they are afraid of Sarah, but because they don’t want to disappoint Sarah.
Forney has tried to reduce Woods’ frustration on occasion and there have been clashes with coaches and teammates. But temperaments are rarely bred for long and hardly ever leave the field. It is part of the game and part of the need to win.
âShe knows how much work she’s put into this and she expects them to do the same,â Forney said. âI don’t think we’ll achieve the success we’ve had if she isn’t so hard on herself and her teammates. â¦ She pushes herself to give the best of herself and she expects her teammates to do the same. She wants to win and she knows what it will take to win.
When Lew-Port lost to Amherst on penalties for the A2 Class Championship in 2018, Woods could not be consoled. She didn’t want to be consoled. She wanted to use that feeling to make sure it didn’t happen again.
Maybe the part of his reputation frowned upon by strangers is that his emotions are so audible and visible. His need to win and be great brings his emotions to the surface. It is often a book, open for everyone to read.
âEvery mistake I make I put myself down and it can be bad because it shows my mental strength,â said Woods. âSometimes my mental strength isn’t there, but I think I have a lot of good teammates supporting me. Every time I’m wrong they say, ‘Sarah, it’s okay. It’s just once, everything will be fine.
While Woods’ emotions may fluctuate during a game, football is a constant in his life. He is always there and never changes. But there is always work to be done to improve. Whether it’s practicing ball handling, going to Proformance athletic training in Amherst to improve your speed and agility, or competing, football is still here.
Her season with Lew-Port is over, but she still has a full roster of games and tournaments this winter with the Western New York Flash, which is stuck in the middle of the women’s basketball season with the Lancers.
Woods guessed that Thanksgiving would be the first day she went without any sports since the schedule moved to 2021. Forney fears exhaustion, while Woods says her mom sometimes thinks she needs to slow down. Not yet, not now.
âI think in order to get ready for college and play at the Division I level, I just have to keep going,â Woods said. âI don’t think I’m overloading myself. I think I am doing the right amount.
The will to be great often seems endless. But ultimately there will be no more competitive football matches to play, no more practice to attend and more skills to improve. Where Woods will meet its competitive needs then becomes the question.
âI can handle not going through all the competitiveness, I think what I can’t handle is not being active,â Woods said. âSo I think I’m going to keep training or running. I’ll be perfectly fine.
Nick sabato can be contacted by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NickSabatoGNN.