Eagle Ridge's Galemmo adjusts to Missouri, boys soccer

Friday, October 26, 2007
Eagle Ridge sophomore Mary-Kate Galemmo plays on the boys varsity soccer team after moving to Cape Girardeau with her family in July. Galemmo had played soccer most of her life in her native state of Ohio (Fred Lynch)

Eagle Ridge sophomore makes SLMCAA all-conference team.

Eagle Ridge sophomore soccer player Stephen Cohen decided to say hello to Mary-Kate Galemmo, the new girl in town who had just moved from Ohio, during the first week of school.

Little did he know what would come from a simple greeting.

"I didn't really know her," Cohen said. "But I was like, 'Hi, I'm Stephen," and she was like, 'I'm Mary-Kate.' And I was like, 'What's your favorite sport?' She was like, 'Soccer.' So I was like, 'Sweet, freaking awesome.' And I said, "Well, the guys are short. Do you want to see if you can try out for the guys' team?'"

That brief conversation between Cohen and Galemmo is how it all started. Galemmo, who was disappointed there was no girls team at her new school, went out for the boys team.

"He [Cohen] basically just told me that they didn't have any players and they needed some help," Galemmo said. "That was the week they had their first game. I came Friday and their first game was [the next] Friday."

Eagle Ridge had only 10 members at that time. Galemmo earned a position as a starting forward and has had quite a season. She has scored seven goals, including one game-winner, and has tallied four assists for the Eagles, which boast a 12-2-1 record heading into the Missouri Christian School Athletic Association State Tournament today.

Galemmo earned SLMCAA conference second-team honors, becoming the first girl to be selected for a SLMCAA team in a boys sport.

Galemmo said the honor was unexpected and rewarding, but she is just happy to be playing soccer. She added that becoming a member of the squad made the transition to her new school and surrounding area much easier.

"I just decided to play and I didn't think I was going to win anything for it," she said. "It was hard at first because I didn't know anybody over the summer. But I think playing soccer, especially, it helped me make more friends and it's getting easier."

Eagle Ridge coach Jonathan Thomasson said Galemmo was a welcomed addition not only because the Eagles were short one player, but also because she showed from the beginning she could compete with the boys. Galemmo's play up front, he said, nicely complements the offense provided by his senior captain forward Daniel Cohen, the older brother of Stephen Cohen.

"She has added a lot to the team," Thomasson said. "Daniel is a good forward, but if you just have one good forward up there, the defense can totally collapse around that one guy or girl and shut him down. Having another good forward has made us a double threat because they don't just have to watch Daniel. They also have to watch Mary-Kate.

"She's got a really good first touch on the ball. She can just settle it and give a good pass off lightning quick. Some of the guys on the team even have trouble with that."

A new home

Galemmo, who had lived in Ohio all her life and has played soccer since she was 5 years old, moved with her family to Cape Girardeau in July after her father accepted a new position in Dexter. One of the most difficult parts of the move, she said, was leaving behind her soccer friends and high school team.

"I had never moved before," she said. "I didn't really know what to expect when I got here. I miss my high school team because we were really good. ... I was pretty shocked [about no girls team] because I didn't think I was going to get to play."

Both her parents, Joe and Mary Ann Galemmo, said the move was difficult on their daughter.

"We came from a small town she had lived in her whole life and she played soccer with the same girls," Mary Ann said. "So to stop that and get on a new team, and try to fit in, is really hard when you're a 16-year-old girl."

Galemmo had not considered going out for the boys team until her conversation with Cohen. She had played in a coed indoor league for one year in Ohio so she did have some experience playing with boys. Instead, she looked into a couple nonschool teams and went out for one that primarily played in showcase tournaments.

A new team

Galemmo said she was a little nervous at first.

"The girls I used to play with I've been playing with since the third grade, so we've always known how we play and we've been able to change stuff together," she said. "I came here and they were all like, 'Daniel Cohen is an amazing forward' and they all bragged about him, so I got up there and I was a little intimidated because I didn't want to make him look bad or anything."

But Galemmo said she soon learned that Daniel was easy to work with and was open to changing his style to help her, and she was willing to do the same.

Daniel Cohen said Galemmo has been fun to work with on the front line.

"I had played with girls before so I kind of knew what to expect, but she was better than what I thought she'd be," he said. "She's done her job. She knows how to pass. She knows how to shoot. She's adapted.

"She's not afraid to take chances and she's not real shy with the ball."

Galemmo paved the way for another female student -- junior Abby Cohen -- to also join. Abby, a junior, is the sister of Stephen and Daniel. She starts on defense.

"I was a little concerned being the only girl, so I was kind of second guessing it," Abby said. "And then when Mary-Kate came along I was like OK."

Same goals

She thinks playing with boys has made her a stronger player. She said she has had to improve her overall speed to keep up. She and her father, Joe, also think she has become a more physical player.

"In more ways than not, I think she's gotten a lot better this year playing with boys," Joe said. "It seems more physical, but she's kept right up there with them."

Thomasson added that Galemmo has really stepped in and kept pace in a boys league.

"Some of the teams at the beginning of games would be kind of laughing, 'Oh, they have girls on their team,'" Thomasson said. "But once the games got started it was more of, 'Watch her. She's good.'"

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