When Allison Stafford arrives at Amherst in the fall, she’ll be ready to take her athletic and academic games to the next level.
And she did it without taking time off from playing high school soccer, starring for four years for the Scarsdale Raiders, centering the back line for two years and playing holding center-mid as an upperclassman. As a junior she was fifth team All-State in Class AA. For her grand finale, Stafford made it two in a row, this time being honored on the fourth team.
Only three Section 1 AA players placed above Stafford, who was the lone returning All-State player in the section this fall.
Charlotte Miller, a scoring machine considered one of the best — if not the best — girls soccer players to come out of Scarsdale, was third team All-State as a senior in 2012. Miller went on to start for Loyola before playing professionally in Europe.
Stafford was a captain and Elite 12 this fall.
“There’s not goals, assists, saves, but she was that much of a dominant force in the central field,” Scarsdale coach Mindy Genovese said. “She’s difficult to reckon with. She controls the tempo, she distributes, she sets people up — she really does all the work that’s necessary in order to get others those stats.”
Playing for Scarsdale was a priority for Stafford, who played club soccer for World Class FC in Rockland, but opted not to play Academy, which no longer permits players to represent their high schools.
“I personally think playing high school soccer is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience I would not want to miss out on,” Stafford said. “It’s so special to be able to represent your school and play with your friends. The team camaraderie doesn’t compare to Academy or other club teams. In retrospect I’m very happy with my decision to play high school soccer. I had an amazing experience playing with my close friends.”
In the fall, the Raiders were 9-7-1 overall after a 1-6 start. The No. 9 seed lost to No. 1 Arlington in double overtime of the Section 1 quarterfinals.
“The fact that our team had improved and progressed so much throughout the season is really a testament to Coach Mindy and Coach [Kiera] Fox as they learned our team’s strengths and weaknesses and adjusted accordingly,” Stafford said. “We were all so close. There was also no drama or issues this season. That really translated on the field how close and how well we got along with each other.”
Though senior-heavy Scarsdale didn’t make it as far in the postseason as the team would have liked, Stafford stayed high on the radar within the state due to Coach Genovese’s brutal early-season cross-over schedule. The competition Stafford and her teammates faced helped lead them to another league title.
“Allison always leads by example,” Genovese said. “In those frustrating losses in the beginning of the season against the teams we were playing, she was still able to distribute at a high level and her work ethic is unreal. At times I had her marking the top players in the section and she was able to successfully shut them down.”
Genovese constantly refers to Stafford as a “team player” who could win 50-50 balls, distribute the ball, change the point of attack, shut down opposing players and start the counterattack with consistency.
In fact, she was such a team player that Stafford was at times too unselfish, passing up on shots Genovese wanted her to take.
“I feel honored and blessed to have a player of her caliber for four years,” Genovese said. “Her contributions to the program are amazing. She’s extremely dedicated and to have somebody for four years like that who continues to improve and work so hard to give back to the team is great to have as a coach. I feel very fortunate and I know she was so well-respected by her teammates.”
Whether it was offseason workouts, practice, a competitive game or a blowout, Stafford is one of the hardest workers Genovese has coached. “She brings it every time and that will serve her well going into the next level of her career,” Genovese said.
In addition to the soccer, Stafford likes the small class sizes and the inviting environment at Amherst. She plans to be pre-med and is leaning toward a major in psychology.
“It really just felt like the perfect fit the second I stepped onto campus,” Stafford said. “Soccerwise they have an amazing Division III program that provides the ideal balance between strong academics and athletics. Being DIII I thought I’d be able to have a more balanced, well-rounded college experience.”