Soccer: Hard-charging style pays off for Gambadoro - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

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Soccer: Hard-charging style pays off for Gambadoro

Desert Vista junior makes name for herself on 50/50 balls

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Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 8:00 am

For the unsuspecting soccer opponent the flash before their feet can be infuriating.

It doesn't matter if they are approaching a free ball or already have control and looking to advance up field, when it happens, possession is usually no longer an option.

That's because Kaylee Gambadoro just pulled off her patented slide tackle.

"She is a very determined defender and she has tenacity and willingness to do what it takes to win the ball," Sereno 95 White coach Darwish Khalil said. "She is a very hard working player and a lot of teams find out fast it is going to take a lot to get the ball past her."

Gambadoro, a junior at Desert Vista, has used her aggressive style to not only disrupt opposing offenses, but turn the heads of college soccer coaches from across the nation.

When she was allowed to start hearing from coaches in September, Gambadoro was contacted by 18 Division I programs right away, including San Diego State, Iona, American, Valparaiso, Florida Gulf Coast and Loyola University in Chicago.

The defensive midfielder settled on Loyola and verbally committed on Oct. 16.

She made visits to Iona, American and Loyola all in one weekend and went to a game each day and stayed in the dorms with the teams.

"I spent the night with the (Loyola) team and they were so welcoming," said Kaylee, who doesn't play for the Thunder like most elite club players don't. "They were Google-ing their opponent the night before and trying to find out stuff about them, which showed me how much they were into soccer.

"It made me feel pretty comfortable with them right away."

Gambadoro, who has traveled all over the country for tournaments with Sereno, will bring her defensive-minded approach to the Ramblers, which is a Division I program that plays in the Horizon League.

She was given a full-ride, which is rare in smaller sports, and was glad to accept the offer, but the hard part was calling the Iona coaching staff, which offered a 75-percent scholarship, and tell them she was going to go another direction.

"That was hard to do," Gambadoro said with a hint of sadness in her voice. "You build relationships in this process, but you have to do what is best for you."

Gambadoro's ascension to a highly regarded recruit didn't come easily.

She is slight in build, standing 5-feet-1, but makes up for it with her aggression, a trait that isn't coachable. Either you got it or you don't and Gambadoro definitely does. Just put her name in the YouTube search engine and watch the hits pile up.

Her father, John, believes the slide tackle, which often looks like a pop-up slide into a base, she does so often comes from her softball background and the roughhousing they did together when she was younger.

"A lot of kids play one sport these days," said John, who is a sports talk show radio host on 620-AM KTAR. "She played softball growing up and that's basically what she does. It's just like sliding into a base."

Kaylee has plenty of time to improve her all-around game before taking off for Loyola for the 2013-14 school year.

Khalil has seen improvement since she came over from the Ladybug soccer club three years ago.

"She has a better understanding of the game," he said. "Before she came to us she was operating on raw ability. We have been able to refine that and she understands the tactical and technical side of the game and what her responsibilities are now."

Gambadoro, who plans on becoming an orthodontist because "a smile is a special thing," is also part of the Olympic Developmental Program and through it she hasn't scored a goal since she was 11.

Not that she cares.

"I can dribble and push the ball up, but there are other players whose job it is to score," she said. "I'll just keep doing what I am doing."

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JskodaAFN.

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
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