Coach Vinny Apicella recognized her talent early.
Amber Alfonzo was in eighth grade when she first started for the North Rockland girls soccer team.
Back then she was a tenacious defender. Later, she took that same go-go-go attitude to midfield, then to forward.
Now a junior, the 16-year-old scored 27 goals this fall to help lead the Red Raiders to the Class AA state final for a second straight year.
One of the 27 was the only goal scored in North Rockland’s 1-0 state semifinal win against Bethlehem Central.
“She scored goals in clutch, clutch spots,” Apicella said of The Journal News/Lohud Rockland girls soccer player of the year.
“She’s a gamer. … She’s a warrior. It’s game on. She just plays hard.”
Alfonzo is quite the ball-handler and will cat-and-mouse defenders with jukes and redirections. But she’s also perfectly capable and content with pedal-to-metal play.
Her speed has been an asset for a very, very long time — as in forever.
At 5, she played “Knee-Highs” soccer. In first grade, she was already on a travel team.
“I have such a passion for the game,” Alfonzo said. “I like the pace of the game. There’s so much action.”
She speaks of her hard work, of drive and determination — qualities that extend far beyond the playing field.
“Everything is a very big deal to me — school, too,” she said, noting she can’t stand when friends get better grades. “I have to beat them.”
Alfonzo plans to play college soccer and possibly study education to work with disabled children, something she already does as a member of her school’s Best Buddies club.
“I just have a connection with them,” she said of disabled kids.
Besides winning the still-elusive state title, her goals for this season included surpassing her 2013 total of 23 goals and becoming a more well-rounded player.
“Last year, I was focused on going to goal, going to goal,” said Alfonzo, who had seven assists this season.
Soccer is her only sport and that’s by design. Other sports, she said, could become distractions from soccer. The Stony Point resident plays year-round and is a member of World Class FC of the Elite Clubs National League.
As the league’s name suggests, this is high-level soccer. Alfonzo plays in three annual college showcases, traveling to Florida, Washington state and California. But even regular league games are challenging.
“This league is never easy,” she said. “You have to fight the whole 90 minutes. I love it. It’s like a rush.”
Yeah, soccer’s Alfonzo’s drug, but a good drug. It’s high-level, high-pressure games and fun, backyard play with sisters Autumn, 12, and Ava, 5, and brother, Anthony, 6. And there’s her participation in Heroes and Cool Kids, a program that takes soccer to middle schoolers while emphasizing “good life choices” and the message “Never give up. Do your best.”
For Alfonzo, that’s more a life motto than a simple message.
The rest of The Journal News Rockland first-team all-stars:
F — Hope Kehoe, Jr., Albertus Magnus
F — Naya Rivera, So., North Rockland
MF — Taylor Aylmer, Jr., North Rockland
MF — Jules Madigan, Sr., Pearl River
MF — Victoria Cruz, Sr., Clarkstown South
MF — Annie White, Sr., Pearl River
D — Raven Blake, Sr., Clarkstown South
D — Julianna Cabrera, Sr., North Rockland
D — Katie O’Connell, Sr., Albertus Magnus
G — Lauren Gallagher, Jr., Pearl River
Coach of the year: Tim Peabody, Pearl River
F — Tatiana Cruz, Fr., Suffern
F — Shaelynn Guilfoyle, So., Pearl River
F — Theresa McGovern, Fr., Tappan Zee
MF — Caleigh Cahoon, So., Suffern
MF — Jackie Hennelly, Sr., Albertus Magnus
MF — Olivia Munnelly, Jr., Nyack
MF — Isabel Zayas, Sr., North Rockland
D — Renee Liporace, Sr., Suffern
D — Deanna Trongone, Jr., Clarkstown South
D — Brianna Williams, So., North Rockland
G — Marissa D’Alessandro, Jr., Nanuet
Kaya Blumenthal-Rothchild, Jr., Nyack; Jenna Braunagel, So., North Rockland; Carly Clinton, Jr., Albertus Magnus; Sara Domenick, Jr., Tappan Zee; Shannon Farnan, Jr., Clarkstown North; Cate Feerick, Fr., Pearl River; Jane Goldman, So., Suffern; Tara Harris, Fr., Tappan Zee; Danielle LaRochelle, Fr., Albertus Magnus; Arianna Marino, Jr., North Rockland; Michaela Morales, Jr., North Rockland; Kari Portington, Jr., Pearl River; Emily Sanchez, Jr., Tappan Zee
Fan-selected all-star team
Julianna Cabrera, Sr., North Rockland (leading vote-getter)
Amber Alfonzo, Jr., North Rockland
Hope Kehoe, Jr., Albertus Magnus
Taylor Aylmer, Jr., North Rockland
Emily Sanchez, Jr., Tappan Zee
Tara Harris, Fr., Tappan Zee
Annie White, Sr., Pearl River
Raven Blake, Sr. Clarkstown South
Naya Rivera, So., North Rockland
Tatiana Cruz, Fr., Suffern
Jules Madigan, Sr., Pearl River
Leslie Goldman, Jr., Pearl River
Shaelynn Guilfoyle, So., Pearl River
Lauren Gallagher, Jr., Pearl River
Sunday, Nov. 30: Boys soccer
Wednesday, Dec. 3: Field hockey
Thursday, Dec. 4: Girls swimming
Friday, Dec. 5: Volleyball
Sunday, Dec. 7: Girls soccer
Wednesday, Dec. 10: Tennis
Thursday, Dec. 11: Boys cross country
Friday, Dec. 12: Girls cross country
Sunday, Dec. 14: Football