When sophomore Halle Palmedo got called up to the Manhasset varsity soccer team as an eighth-grader, her nervousness brought her to tears.
She then went out and scored three goals in her first game to end the regular season and followed that up with a goal in overtime penalty kicks in the playoffs. To her coach, it looked as if she thought it was all no big deal.
"I've never seen her get emotional on the field," Chris Keen said.
Palmedo said as soon as she touches the ball, her nerves dissipate and she forgets about her problems.
There haven't been many for her or Manhasset this year, as she's racked up 10 goals and three assists in the team's first year in Nassau AB-I, the top conference for smaller schools. The team is 2-1-2, powered by the strength of a core group of sophomores, and it sits in a three-way tie with Island Trees and South Side for second place.
Palmedo has been an integral part of the team's early success. Manhasset's two biggest wins have been 5-0 against Wantagh and 2-1 over Garden City. She scored the winner against Garden City, a team that Keen said Manhasset would have settled for a draw against in the past.
"I was so excited that I barely remember what happened," Palmedo said.
The biggest factor beyond Palmedo' ability to score is the poise she shows on the field, Keen said. She doesn't let pressure get to her, but accolades don't affect her, either.
"The biggest thing is to be this young and to be this good, you'd expect that there would be a little arrogance, but she doesn't exhibit any of that," Keen said.
Since she's become a known player, Palmedo has spent a lot of time being double-teamed. Keen said he's seen other players get frustrated and lose their composure in that situation, but Palmedo hasn't had that reaction.
Before she got called up to varsity, she was one of the four now-sophomores on varsity who spent their eighth-grade year on the JV team. She later told Keen that she was angry that she didn't get the call up from the start, something that he hadn't expected to hear from the reserved player.
"It got a lot of us down, but at the same time it pumped us up in the games -- we tried really hard," Palmedo said. "We knew there was potential."
Keen said all six sophomores make up the nucleus of the current team battling perennial contenders at the top of the highest division, and Palmedo is the one they look to for leadership.
"Everyone on our team expects she's going to carry us in a big spot," he said.