Chantilly’s Laila Gray brings creative touch to soccer field

On Sundays, once her homework is done and she’s gotten her fill from playing FIFA Soccer on Playstation 3, Laila Gray sets out in search of competition.

As a member of the Chantilly High and Herndon FC soccer teams, Gray battles against some of the area’s top girls all week long. But for a junior forward who prides herself on creativity and conquering challenges, playing weekend pickup games with the guys is something she relishes.

“Along with watching a lot of soccer, I like going against the guys because I’m always looking for ways to get better,” Gray said. “I’ll study moves, watch what they do and push myself to be the best player out there, even if I’m only the girl out there.”

The lofty expectations as well as the high-level competition that Gray surrounds herself with has paid clear dividends. The Virginia Tech commit has scored eight goals and registered a team-high eight assists for No. 4 Chantilly, which is tied with Westfield for first in the Virginia AAA Concorde District. Opponents have had little success thwarting the package of speed, dribbling and pinpoint passing possessed by Gray.

“She is definitely the most creative and dynamic player I’ve coached in my career,” Chantilly Coach Melissa Bibbee said. “Unlike most players, she’s not just a north-to-south type player, she’s always looking for the fancy play and she takes a lot of risks. But it’s sometimes to limit her because she’s so creative on the ball and does some amazing things.”

During an April 9 win, Gray converted what’s known as a Maradona, faking out the defender and keeper with a foot trick while spinning away for the space necessary to score.

“It was ridiculous,” Bibbee recalled.

“I don’t want to be a predictable player, so whether I’m running down the line or passing through five players, I want to find a way for the defender to not know what I’m doing,” Gray said.

The plays that Gray is able to make are a big reason why the Chargers are averaging four goals a game during their 7-2-1 start. Surrounded by some of the fastest players in the area, Gray has a knack for setting up teammates on the run and in the right spots, like she did on Kayla Christian’s stoppage time goal in Wednesday’s 4-1 win against Oakton.

“Ever since I saw her when she was 11 or 12, I knew she would be a force for us,” Bibbee said. “She’s a very vocal leader, she has a competitive spirit and that’s why she’s headed to play at a high level like the ACC.”

NUMBER CRUNCH: 2
Runs scored by DeMatha off Antonio Rosanova‘s suicide squeeze bunt in the bottom of the 10th inning to cap a 5-4 comeback win against O’Connell on Thursday.

BREAKFAST LINKS:
Bishop Ireton routed No. 8 Flint Hill, 15-0, behind the hitting of Scott Schwartz, who had six RBI and was a triple shy of of the cycle on Thursday.

–Battlefield’s boys’ lacrosse team remained undefeated thanks to five goals by Ryan Swingle in the Bobcats’ 14-2 win against Freedom-South Riding on Thursday.

–Walter Johnson pitcher Gus Gill threw a school-record 13 strikeouts en route to his first no-hitter during a 3-0 win against Churchill earlier this week.

WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
No. 8 Severna Park at No. 9 Broadneck, 5 p.m.
Lengthy win streaks will be put on the line as two of the area’s top scoring girls’ lacrosse teams meet in Annapolis.
No. 4 Landon at No. 2 Georgetown Prep, 4:30 p.m.
Two of the nation’s most storied boys’ lacrosse teams will take the field Friday. Landon is just 7-5 but is led by Sean O’Brien’s 18 goals while the Little Hoyas have won 10 of their last 11 games.

WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND
Nike Hoop Summit, 7 p.m. Saturday
Yes, the NBA playoffs start Saturday but the Nike Hoop Summit is always a must-see for the true hoopheads. DeMatha Coach Mike Jones will lead the nation’s top recruits (Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, etc.) against the World (Andrew Wiggins, Karl Towns Jr.), which collected a rare win against the U.S. last year. Tune into ESPN2 for coverage.

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Brandon Parker is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.
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