It wasn’t easy for senior Amber Birchwell to imagine the situation she’s in now, thinking back to freshman year.
The Floyd girls soccer phenom was on varsity as a freshman with Floyd only playing in Suffolk League VIII among smaller schools -- not playing nearly the top competition Long Island had to offer.
Birchwell scored 13 goals with five assists as a freshman. She had emerged on the scene and it was Floyd’s time to do the same. Since moving up in leagues, Floyd struggled the previous two years -- winning a combined 11 games -- but Birchwell scored a combined 27 goals.
Now, Birchwell leads Suffolk in goals with 27 (through Sunday) and has Floyd in the playoffs after going 8-5 in Suffolk I.
“That’s what we’ve wanted since I was a freshman,” Birchwell said. “We started out in League VIII and to this year make the playoffs is really special and a great feeling.”
Birchwell scored both goals in No. 13 Floyd’s 2-1 win over No. 20 Half Hollow Hills West for the Colonials’ 11th win of the season in a Suffolk AA outbracket game Friday.
“I have the utmost confidence in Amber’s ability,” said head coach Matthew Sanders after Friday’s win. “She’s shown since she was a freshman that she’s comfortable in any situation and today’s no different. Big players show up in big games and she was certainly no different today.”
Birchwell used her size and speed to steal a ball at midfield, resulting in a breakaway goal from 12 yards out to the bottom-right corner of the net in the 48th minute to give Floyd the 2-1 lead. Her first goal came off a header from a cross from Brianna Ditillo with just one minute remaining in the first half.
“She’s a once in a lifetime type of player,” Sanders said. “A lot of the stuff she does out there comes from pure instincts. She’s a dynamic playmaker and comfortable with her feet.”
And Birchwell had a one in a lifetime opportunity last summer when she trained with the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program for 10 days in Spain. Along with playing and training, Birchwell and the team went on trips to a Real Madrid game, Barcelona Stadium and explored the towns.
“I had a lot of fun and it was a good experience to play in a different country and against other competition,” Birchwell said.
She’ll continue her soccer trajectory next year at Providence College, which made it to the Big East championship game last season.
But for now, she remains focused on finishing her high school career strong. With a matchup against No. 4 Commack on Monday, Floyd looks for a Cinderella run deep into the Suffolk AA playoffs. And she and her team are soaking up the moment.
“It felt good being able to achieve something that we’ve worked hard for,” Birchwell said.