Ruby Erstein of Schechter School of LI chases down the...

Ruby Erstein of Schechter School of LI chases down the ball during a PSAA boys soccer semifinal playoff game against Kew Forest in Hicksville on Monday, October 25, 2021. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

Jonah Erstein had the ball at his feet on Kew-Forest’s side of the Cantiague Park turf when his coach yelled out three simple words of instruction:

"Find your sister."

Find your sister? In the middle of this boys varsity soccer semifinal Monday for the Private Schools Athletic Association Metro Conference?

Jonah indeed found his sister, the junior’s teammate ahead at left wing for Schechter School of Long Island.

Ruby Erstein was easy for anyone to find. She was the only girl on that Hicksville field. The 5-2 forward’s blond ponytail hung over the back of her blue No. 17 jersey.

She lives in Roslyn and is just 13. She’s an eighth-grader at Schechter, the Jewish K-12 day school in Williston Park. But she started and fit right in with a high school team that ultimately fell to Waldorf in Wednesday’s championship game.

"She proved out there that she was very capable of hanging with kids that are four to five years older than her," Schechter coach Jordan Abrahamson said. "For her, there’s no amount of muscle or skill that outmatched her. … She’s very fearless with the ball. She’s not afraid to get at defenders and take them one v. one."

Ruby Erstein of Schechter School keeps ahead of Kew-Forest's Avik Pradhan...

Ruby Erstein of Schechter School keeps ahead of Kew-Forest's Avik Pradhan during a PSAA boys soccer semifinal playoff game in Hicksville on Monday, October 25, 2021. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

A few girls have been on the team previously because there’s no separate team for them. But there had never been an eighth-grade girl on it before. Her ability made her a Schechter first, girl or boy, for something else, too.

Erstein was selected this month for the 2021-22 Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association Olympic Development Program after three tryouts.

The program provides professional coaching and is meant to improve her development and chances to be noticed and picked for regional and national pools and teams. Besides once-a-week training, it includes tournaments and a camp.

"I want to be in the Olympics one day," Ruby said. "It would mean a lot. It would mean the hard work I put in came through."

The straight-A student, who also plays on a Long Island Soccer Club travel team, is practically attached to a soccer ball at home.

Her parents, David and Sivan, have a soccer goal in the backyard that’s used by Jonah, younger brother Lev, who plays for Schechter’s fifth/sixth-grade team and the Long Island Soccer Club, and Ruby. She followed Jonah into the sport. Now she also practices for at least an hour on her own each day.

"In the backyard; in the living room; in the den; in the kitchen; in the basement," Sivan said. "Always a soccer ball at her feet."

Ruby Erstein of Schechter School of LI goes up against...

Ruby Erstein of Schechter School of LI goes up against Kew Forest's Gjon Bicaj during a PSAA boys soccer semifinal playoff game in Hicksville on Monday, October 25, 2021. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

Schechter athletic director Courtney Athenas had known of her athletic ability since Erstein was in sixth grade. Athenas served as her gym teacher.

It was Athenas’ idea to put her on the team. It’s a small school. Athenas needed to fill a spot.

"I thought it was pretty cool," Erstein said.

And Mom?

"At first, I was a little apprehensive," Sivan said. "But the athletic director assured me that the league was going to be safe."

Athenas gave Erstein a league-mandated fitness assessment. The AD had received one other thing to go forward — Jonah’s blessing.

"Would you be uncomfortable having her on the team?" Athenas asked him.

"And he said, ‘Absolutely not. She’ll run circles around most of these boys,’ " Athenas said.

"I didn’t think they were going to let her," he said. "I said, ‘She had to play.’ I thought she was vital."

Jonah, who plays left back, said the other boys were fine with her being on the team and respect her talent.

Ruby Erstein and Jonah Erstein of Schechter School of LI pose before a...

Ruby Erstein and Jonah Erstein of Schechter School of LI pose before a PSAA boys soccer semifinal playoff game against Kew Forest in Hicksville on Monday, October 25, 2021. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

"She’s good," he said. "She’s right in front of me. We pass to each other."

Ruby’s big brother is protective of her.

"One time when somebody pushed me, he kind of stood up for me," she said. "He yelled at the player."

The pandemic led to a short schedule. The Lions finished 3-4-1. Ruby didn’t score, but she did have an assist. Athenas said she played a key role keeping the ball in position for potential goals. Erstein enjoyed the coed experience.

"I have my brother on the team and I know some of his friends," she said. "So it’s just fun."

Erstein said she was "really excited" when she was chosen for the Olympic Development Program.

"I could definitely see the potential in it," Abrahamson said. "She has the attitude and the ability to keep progressing in the sport."

She plans to go out for JV girls basketball. But soccer is the future.

"I want to go to college, D-I," Erstein said.

"Wherever it takes her," her mother said. "She loves it. We support her."

Erstein could even see playing professionally one day.

"I like to be able to score," she said. "It’s just a really fun sport."

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