SANBORN — Marisa Rickard and Sydney Galas are practically inseparable.
The duo spends so many hours together that Rickard said “it would be hard to hate” Galas.
They see each other every day throughout the school year and hold an after-school job as waitresses at Antonio’s Banquet and Conference Center on Niagara Falls Boulevard. On top of that, both are three-sport athletes through basketball and track.
And whenever Rihanna’s “Umbrella” or “S&M” is played, look out. The duo’s passion for the artist becomes just as large as their collective influence was on the Falcons’ offense this season on the pitch.
While they were teammates in each of the last two seasons for Niagara Wheatfield, Rickard and Galas’ combined game continued to advance thanks to playing with the NWAA Lady Renegades travel team for over five years. So, when the Falcons wanted to avenge their Section VI championship loss from one year ago, it was no surprise the duo would finish as the team’s top two finishers in goals, assists and points.
Take for instance, during Niagara Wheatfield’s Oct. 19 Class AA quarterfinal contest against Frontier as a prime example. Already with a 2-0 lead out of the break, the Falcons kept attacking the net, needing just one more score to create enough separation and the two delivered.
Galas thought she was going to take the shot but once she saw Rickard inside the box, she provided the cross and her long-time friend headed the goal. It was a play, Galas later said, that had happened as if “we had read each other’s mind.”
With a combined stat-line of 53 goals and 131 points, Rickard and Galas’ off-field friendship translated into giving opposing defenses headaches and the Falcons clinching the Niagara Frontier League and Class AA championships and advancing to the Far West Regional. The partnership and making key plays, together or individually, against teams like Lewiston-Porter and Clarence led to Rickard and Galas being chosen as the Greater Niagara Newspapers Players of the Year.
“I feel that we just know what we’re going to do at this point,” Rickard said. “I know Sydney’s going to make that run when I play a ball. She knows that when I get the ball, I’m looking for her to pass it to. So, it just works really well on the field that we can connect a lot easier.”
The connection resulted in Niagara Wheatfield recording 14 wins for the third time since 2017 with Rickard and Galas both starting all 18 games for head coach Larry Monahan. In the postseason alone, Rickard recorded four goals and eight points, including one of the penalty kicks in the AA championship game against Clarence. Galas recorded a team-high five assists in the postseason, including three against Frontier.
Along with the friendship comes with being each other’s biggest cheerleader and motivator, which resulted in impressive individual performances during the season, ranging from Rickard’s two-goal game against Lew-Port in the NFL championship game to Galas’ hat trick in the 6-3 regular season win against Lockport on Sept. 11. Additionally, Rickard scored in 14 games, including the first six, while Galas scored in 12 games, including in 11 of the Falcons’ first 12 to start the season.
With the tandem both finishing in the top-10 among all Section VI players in goals and points, Rickard and Galas experienced a growth together that Monahan described as “phenomenal” in their first season with him as head coach. The duo, Monahan said, expressed different personalities this season.
Galas and her “bubbly” personality showed during practice when she would play the team’s playlist, resulting in her being nicknamed “DJ Syd” while Rickard was more “focused” in leading the task at hand. But, when combined, Monahan said the tandem brought out the best in each other, comparing it to the former Buffalo Sabres duo of Alex Mogilny (Galas) and Pat LaFontaine (Rickard).
“Sydney’s definitely, I’d say more, of the speedier player, more of where she gets the ball and she’ll go, she makes that break and she’s gone,” Monahan said. “Whereas Marissa is just that all around player where she can be wherever you want her to be. She can play defensive. We need to protect a lead. She can play midfield if we need to protect the midfield and really control the game and have her send those passes. She can play up top like she has and get those goals and make those runs. … (Both are) all around players.”
Galas and Rickard will both return for a senior campaign next year as part of a Falcons starting lineup with all but one player also set to return. For Galas, the opportunity to play alongside a good friend has been special, noting how the friendship took a while to gel.
“Two years into my travel season, I kind of started to get to know (Marisa),” Galas said. And then we did the same sport. So I mean, why? Why shouldn’t we be friends? She’s a great, great person. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be friends with Marisa?”