Grace Palczewski’s journey to Nazareth started at a soccer camp about two years ago.
That’s where she met the Golden Flyers’ 28-year women’s soccer coach Gail Mann. They had kept in touch since then, leading up to last summer when Palczewski decided Nazareth was the best fit and committed to attending college there, and playing on the school’s Division III women’s soccer team, starting in the Fall.
“I think it was the atmosphere,” said Palczewski, a senior at Valley Central High School. “The team was really nice and close-knit. It also has one of the best nursing programs and I was looking for good academics, as well. Everything fit nice for me and it was what I wanted.”
Her hope is to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, a provider of pain medication before, during and after surgery. Her mother is a nurse in Westchester.
“She would just tell me stories about her workdays and it just got me into it,” Palczewski said. “And I looked into it, and I love helping people, and it really just seems like the best career for me.”
Palczewski was a fourth-team New York State Sportswriters Association all-star defender in 2019 and has been on the Valley Central varsity since she was a freshman.
“We probably would have brought her up as an eighth grader, but we didn’t have the opportunity to do that,” Valley Central girls’ soccer coach Jon Walsh said.
She’s a three-sport athlete playing girls’ basketball and girls’ lacrosse, as well. However, soccer is – and always will be – her top sport.
“It was always soccer for me,” Palczewski said. “I always just knew I wanted to play in college and keep on pursuing it.”
She also plays on the Nirvana 360 Illusion, which is ranked 10th in the Nation, seventh in the region and first in New York State.
“I love the competition and the competitiveness,” Palczewski said. “But I really like how much fun it is, even if it’s such a competitive game. It’s something that’s just a passion for me.”
Her passion, however, does not come in the scoring of goals, it comes from preventing them from her center back defensive position.
“She’s a natural leader,” Walsh said. “She can command the defensive half really well. Her knowledge of the game is very high.
Her skill level is very high. She’s one of the best defense players I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching. She can read the game as it comes toward her. She knows when to play away from pressure and toward pressure. She has a complete understanding of the game and utilizes it very well.”
She’ll take those skills to Nazareth for Mann’s team, which is routinely recognized among the nation’s Division III elite.
They played to an overall 9-6-2 record in 2019, recording their 26th straight winning season. They have either shared or won the Empire-8 conference championship 11 times since 1999.
Palczewski said she’s ready to take on the challenge.
“I think my club team has prepared me tremendously,” she said. “We’re just a great team and I love playing with them. We play high competition and high intensity. It has definitely helped me prepare for college and how intense it’s going to be in college and how I have to work for my spot.”