Abington's Gray & Bensalem's Gonzalez Named Univest Featured Athletes

Thanks to our continued partnership with Univest Financial, SuburbanOneSports.com will once again recognize a male and female featured athlete each week. The recognition is given to seniors of high character who are students in good standing that have made significant contributions to their teams or who have overcome adversity. Selections are based on nominations received from coaches, athletic directors and administrators.

Univest’s SuburbanOneSports.com Featured Female Athlete (Week of Dec. 20, 2022)

Rick Tompkins was in for a bit of a surprise when he attended his granddaughter’s first dance recital three years ago. “You have to sit through all these things, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I know that girl,’” the Abington soccer coach recalled. “My wife said, ‘How do you know her?’ I said, ‘That’s one of my players, and she’s in ninth grade.’” “That girl” turned out to be Lily Gray, who earned a spot on the varsity as a freshman. “It all made sense because of the way she moves – she moves like a ballerina,” Tompkins said. “She’s very graceful, and she’s a very skilled player. She probably has the best touch on our team.”

Gray was a tri-captain of an Abington squad that captured the SOL Liberty Division title this fall, and while fellow captains Maura Day (the Liberty Division MVP) and Carley Slavin – both members of Philadelphia Soccer Club’s Coppa Rage U-17 squad that won the US Youth Soccer U-17 national championship last summer – earned more notoriety, Gray ‘s role as a leader was every bit as important. Although decidedly different. “Maura and Carley are way more outgoing than Lily,” Tompkins said. “But Lily is the one that reaches some of the kids that might not fit in as well. She brings a lot of that to the table.”

Gray’s approach is very intentional. “A big part of what I try to focus on was including the younger girls and making them feel a part of the team because I know when I was a freshman, and it was only me and my friend Maura on varsity that year – we got super lucky because I had heard horror stories from before, but our captains were so nice,” Gray said. “Our one captain, Emily Friel, would always offer us rides and include us in everything.  Caroline Hughes, who was a sophomore at the time, wasn’t a captain but always made sure we were included and felt like part of the team. I wanted to do that for the younger girls. That really shaped how my soccer experience went because that could have been a lot more stressful. I definitely was less loud on the field. I just tried to include everyone and make sure everyone feels included.”

Away from the soccer pitch and dance floor, Gray is active in school life and is the social media chair for Abington’s version of MiniTHON (AbingTHON). Her ambitious course load includes five AP classes and a dual enrollment class through Stockton University. Her 4.59 GPA at the end of her junior year speaks for itself.  “It’s a lot, and I kind of regret doing that to myself, but hopefully, it will ease my work in college,” said Gray, who has applied to Wake Forest, Lafayette, Colgate, Dickinson and Pitt. She’s about to apply to Lehigh, Bucknell and Virginia.

When it comes to choosing a major, Gray is undecided although she is considering psychology. She has diverse interests, and the summer before her junior year, she went on a 10-day sea turtle initiative trip to Costa Rica with 24 students from across the country. “It was completely off the grid – you couldn’t contact anyone,” she said. “We were in an eco-lodge, a house with no air conditioning. We had electricity for three hours every day. We protected the sea turtles from the poachers in the little village. I’ve always been interested in the ocean.” Because her father is from England, Gray has also done a lot of traveling with annual trips to visit family, and the Abington senior lists traveling among her interests. While Gray’s list of interests is a lengthy one, there is no mistaking her passion for soccer. “I loved high school soccer,” she said. “All the friends I’ve made, all the connections and learning how to work well with people as a team and how to hold each other and yourself accountable. A lot of my close friends are from the soccer team, and we all just got really close. It was just always so much fun. I miss soccer so much.” It was after her final high school season came to an end that Gray realized just how much she loved the sport, and she hopes to continue at the collegiate level. “I was pretty late in deciding,” she said. “But I researched some schools. Most had finished their recruiting. There is one I’m still in touch with. It just depends if a spot opens up. If not, most of the schools I’m applying to I chose because they have competitive club programs that do some traveling. I really like being part of a team and playing soccer, so I want to continue in some way.”

To read Gray’s complete profile, please click on the following link: https://www.suburbanonesports.com/featured-athletes/female/lily-gray-00104300

Univest’s SuburbanOneSports.com Featured Male Athlete (Week of Dec. 20, 2022)

If Santa was making a list and checking it twice for Bensalem senior point guard Eric Gonzalez, he would pass with flying colors. Coachable? Check. Good teammate? Check. Good student/solid citizen off the floor? Check. “He’s an awesome kid,” said Morris. “He will do anything you ask him to do. He is a very hard worker and all-around pleasure to coach.” A teacher at Bensalem who runs a few clubs, Morris is keenly aware of how Gonzalez is perceived on campus. “He is actively involved in the school community,” said Morris. “He is a positive person around the building. A lot of the teachers know him and like him a lot. He is always smiling. That is one of the things that I really love about him. He has such a positive outlook and attitude on everything. People feed off that.”

Gonzalez spent his freshman year on JV and now is in his third year on varsity, second as a full-time starter and the first as the primary scorer. The Owls lost five of their top eight players from last year’s SOL Patriot Division championship squad, including three all-league players.  “Eric’s role has changed this year,” said Morris. “Last year, with two all-league first-team guards next to him, he was more of a distributor. This year, he is a facilitator and scorer. He is really taking that role on. He had a great summer and fall, getting ready for this new role.” Factor in Gonzalez being more of a traditional point guard than in the past, and he is now a complete player in every sense. In leading the Owls to a 6-0 start, he was scoring 13.8 points per game to go along with 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.8 steals. “He is so fast and strong with the ball,” said Morris. “It’s really hard to take it from him. He is really crafty getting to the rim. He is a good shooter as well. He is still able to get his teammates open. He is very unselfish. He is all about the team.”

Gonzalez created his own favorite quote – “life is a journey, but you can’t live life without a journey” – and believes turning into more of a combo guard this season is a natural leg in his basketball journey. “Last year, it was kind of hard to score,” said Gonzalez. “I just had to be a facilitator. Now, it’s different. I have to be that leader.” While important at all levels of basketball, dependable play in the backcourt has always been a constant at the scholastic level. “Good guard play will always keep you in games, and he is a big reason for the success we had these last few years,” said Morris. “He is one of the key parts out there on the floor all the time. He is good at attacking and knowing when to dish, when to shoot and when to go to the rim. That comes with the experience that he has.” Suddenly left as a rare senior, Gonzalez has stepped into the leadership void. “He is just starting to come out of his shell as a leader,” said Morris. “He has always been a leader through his work ethic. Now, he is more vocal, which is awesome to see.”

The goal for Gonzalez is to play at the next level, where he plans to major in nursing so he can help people, but the challenge is for college coaches to see beyond his height – he is listed as 5-6. The Division III level means that academics need to be in order, which is not an issue, as Gonzalez’s GPA is in the 3.9/4.0 range. He is also active in clubs such as SGA and Blue Crew and competed for the Bensalem golf team in the fall. "Eric started playing golf in 10th grade, and from day one, he worked hard at learning the game," coach Jeff Schluchterer said. "By his senior year, he became a competitive golfer who contributed to the team's success. He is a polite, respectful young man who has a great future." As for his college choice, that is something that will take care of itself. “I think, as the season goes on, people will see what he can do,” said Morris. “He is really strong. He’s a smart basketball player, and he can defend really well.”

Anyone seeing Gonzalez play in person will understand that his basketball IQ makes up for his stature. That’s what he is anxious to show. “I don’t really play like my height,” he said. “I want these colleges just to see how I play, the heart I play with and how I defend. I don’t let it get to me. It’s just small things. Playing full-court defense and being annoying.” No matter what comes next, this season – and Gonzalez’s high school career – will come to end. “It’s definitely going to be an emotional end when our season ends,” said Morris. “I’ve known him for so long.”

To read Gonzalez’s complete profile, please click on the following link: https://www.suburbanonesports.com/featured-athletes/male/eric-gonzalez-00104301