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Grifaldo sisters help pace East girls soccer team

March 14, 2012 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated March 14, 2012 at 10:15 p.m.

East senior Maria Grifaldo takes a shot at the goal during last Friday's game against Corpus Christi Miller. Maria plays on a Titans squad with her sister, Elvira.

Soccer can be a sport where statistics are not the sole indicator of a player's importance to their side.

An incisive pass to untangle a defense can be just as valuable as the person who puts the ball in the back of the net. Victoria East has two players who fit the former in Maria and Elvira Grifaldo.

The sisters versatility and dependability this season have allowed the Titans to muscle their way into the District 59-4A playoff race. Maria is a senior captain, while Elvira has been one of the few constants in defense for the Titans this year.

Though neither is naturally left-footed, they play on the left side of head coach Misty Boenig's 4-4-2 system. Elvira is a defender, while her older sister is a midfielder.

"It's a lot of fun," Elvira said. "We communicate and work together a lot. . We know each other's movement."

Both girls have been exposed to the game since they were young. Their father, Gregorio, was a weekend warrior on local soccer fields. Outside of a few practices neither Maria nor Elvira can remember much about those days, because they were too young.

One look between the two can instruct Elvira to make the overlapping run, or suggest where Maria should go if she wants to receive the ball.

"When we finally made that change, the connection between those two, they didn't have to talk," Boenig said. "They know exactly what they are going to do. There is a little telepathy between them that they can perform and see where their teammates are."

Growing up Maria and Elvira were forwards. Boenig moved Elvira to defense last year. Maria has played nearly every outfield position for the Titans, including defense in a pinch.

In a March 9 victory over Corpus Christi Miller, Maria and Elvira were given the license to continue their sister act a little closer to goal, as Boenig let the two play forward for the final 20 minutes of the 5-1 victory. The pairing didn't result in any goals, but it did provide a nostalgic moment for Maria on Senior Night.

"We missed it," Maria said. "Last year my sister and I would always start at forward. We have missed it so much. It brought us so many memories when we played forward."

The Titans' twosome didn't score against the Buccaneers. But scoring has never been their biggest contribution to the team. Elvira scored her only goal of the season in an 8-0 romp over Miller on Feb. 14, while her sister has two goals this year.

Maria provides versatility, because she can play all over the midfield, as well as partner with senior captain Valerie Rojas at forward. Elvira's experience has helped shore up a young Titans defense.

A trio of Titans' defenders has missed time this year due to injury. Meanwhile central defender Kendyl Charbula and goalkeeper Kelsey Ferry are first-year starters. Elvira said they have figured each other as the season has progressed.

"She has played every position back there on defense," Boenig said. "With the new formation she has been able to start our offense. She has an amazing first touch and speed. Her ability to lead back there, not necessarily with her voice, but her actions has helped our team."

Boenig moved Maria to the left side of the midfield in a Feb. 3 game against Gregory-Portland. In the eight full games since the move the Titans have held opponents to a goal or less seven times, with an aggregate 23-9 score.

"We have learned how each other work," Elvira. "We make sure our defense is lined up so we can keep teams offside. We make sure all four of us are even and not too close to the keeper."

Though Elvira has not decided whether she will vie for the captaincy next year, one thing is certain: the Grifaldo act will continue.

Maria is the oldest of Irene and Gregorio's five children. Their sister, Coraima, is a freshman on the Titans' junior varsity.

"It's going to be good," Elvira said. "At least I have another sister I can work with."

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