Bendon raised level of play to help CB West win PIAA title

Whatever traits you look for in a great athlete, Grace Bendon has them.

Great skill, clutch performer, particularly in big games, living up to expectations and getting the best from the team around; Bendon carries all these traits, which played a big role in helping to carry her team to a state championship.

Bendon did not have the type of regular season she would have liked so she took it upon herself to get better and ultimately make the team better as she took her game to the next level in the second half of the season.

“I think it was her desire to win,’ Central Bucks West girls soccer coach Jorge Rodriguez said. “She’s an incredibly competitive person, with herself, and I think that’s what helped her grow. This is a kid who came into the season already established and in order for her to get to where she got, she had to make a big jump and honestly I didn’t think she could make that jump.’

Bendon’s self-discovery came at the right time as the team needed to raise its level of play if it wanted any shot at a PIAA title. The Bucks would finish third behind Pennridge and CB East in the Suburban One Continental Conference and got the District One third seed in the state playoff, but by the time the state playoffs hit, the seedings did not matter.

“She brings great leadership,’ Rodriguez said. “One of the reasons why our team turned it around and you look at our record, I think anybody looking at our record would scratch their head wondering how we could have got to a state final and then win, I contribute a lot of it to her.’

Being a keeper allows Bendon to have a huge impact on a game especially when you boast the skills that she does. West even has the benefit of using her in ways that most teams will not use a goalie, like when they opt to use her to take free kicks.

“There are few positions on the field that have a major impact in a game with just one play or one play at a time,’ Rodriguez said. “The state final is a good example of her leadership. Anytime she’s involved in a play (like) if she’s involved in a corner kick and she comes out with the ball in her hands, you can see the effect that it has on a team’s psyche.’

“We used her not in a conventional manner. We used her for a lot of our free kicks. In fact both of our goals in the state finals came off of her foot off of a free kick.’

Bendon will likely be playing for St Joseph’s University next year, a prospect that has Rodriguez excited as he feels she can take her game to the next level yet again.

“I’m very excited for her to get continuous goal keeper specific training,’ Rodriguez said. “I think that’s when you’re really going to see Grace get to the level she wants to be at.’

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