Amanda Benincasa Was Rye’s Secret Weapon

As the Rye girls’ soccer team gained more and more acclaim this season, their fan base increased exponentially, packing the stands for home games and even boarding the “Lady Garnet Express” bus to cheer their team at road venues in the postseason.

It quickly became evident that the knowledgeable fans recognized the talent the team possessed as a whole, as well as the winning ways of individual Garnets. One of those athletes Rye’s loyal supporters were abuzz over was senior defender Amanda Benincasa, the four-year varsity starter who decided the outcome of many games with her powerful throw-ins. Throughout the season, Benincasa’s throw-ins led to nine of the Garnets’ 52 goals (eight assists and one goal), six of which came in the playoffs.

Amanda Benincasa

“Amanda was often required to make 60-yard runs down the field for a throw and then sprint back for her defensive responsibilities,” said head coach Rich Savage. “She had to mark the most dangerous forwards throughout the Section, but had a quick step to the ball and would consistently shut down and frustrate those players. Her effort was truly tremendous.”

Benincasa’s prowess as a thrower began 12 years ago, when she began playing Rye Youth soccer under the tutelage of her first and perhaps most formative coach, Christian Saunders. The senior, who comes from an athletic family, started played the sport to emulate and impress her older brother, Matt. At the time, she was also a swimmer who excelled in the butterfly stroke, and she attributes much of her throwing ability to the strength and flexibility she developed in the pool.

While Benincasa has been on throw-in duty for the past three years, the 2010 season was the first time Rye truly began to capitalize on the secret weapon. “We focused a lot more on my throw-ins and they became a huge part of our offense.”

Benincasa’s fingerprints were on most of the Garnets’ big goals in the postseason. In the Section semifinal against Byram Hills, her throw-in led to a flick-on by Carter Talgo that allowed Maddy Chabot to finish. Against Somers in the Section final, with the wind howling, both Rye goals were generated from Benincasa throw-ins. In the Regional semifinal her toss careened off a defender for a decisive Garnet score. She did it in the Regional final as well, throwing it to Talgo for the lone score of the game.

“This year our team felt a lot of pressure due to the high rankings we were awarded,” said Benincasa, on dealing with the season-long target on Rye’s back. “We handled it by focusing on our goals one at a time, but mainly we dealt with it by leaning on each other. This team became so close that it was like a big family. Whenever you were stressed there were 25 other girls who knew exactly what you were going through.”

Savage noted that Benincasa’s defensive skills were even more impressive than her throws and that – even more importantly – she had the perfect attitude both on and off the field.

“Amanda worked hard at every drill in every practice, but also made it fun for all the girls,” said the coach. “She never took any credit for all of her efforts – putting the team first was why we were so successful. The work rate, attitude, and Amanda herself will never be forgotten. She set the standard for Rye Girls’ Soccer. Amanda is a wonderful person with an outstanding attitude, and I was certainly lucky to have her on the team for the past four years.”

Reflecting on her years as a Garnet, Benincasa mused, “Being a part of this team has meant the world to me. This past season was so amazing; I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Benincasa’s younger sister Christina has been a ball girl for the past couple of years, and will be a ninth-grader next year. Savage is already looking forward to her continuing the Benincasa legacy. Amanda thinks she will.

“In the coming years, my sister will be a huge asset to the varsity team. I hope that she gets to experience everything that I did, like winning States and being able to form such close bonds with her teammates. My parents have always been supportive of everything I do and it meant a lot to me that they came to all of my games. I know they will go to all of hers as well.”

Benincasa plans to continue playing club soccer in college, but is not sure where she’s going yet. She wants to study psychology.

– Melanie Cane

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