Kicking for Gold

Pali High Soccer Player Lily Gruber Heads to Maccabi Games

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

When one door closes, another door opens. You just have to be ready to walk through it.

Lily Gruber, a senior-to-be  on the Palisades High girls soccer team, has been chosen to represent the United States at next week’s Maccabi International Pan American Games in Mexico City.

Pali High senior Lily Gruber and the USA Junior girls team will try to win the Pan American Maccabi Games in Mexico.
Photo by Steve Galluzzo

“When I received the call from the coach, I was not only super excited, I was also relieved,” Gruber said. “About two years ago I was selected as an alternate player for the team going to Israel, meaning that I didn’t get to travel with the team. However, after training really hard and consistently for the past two years, I received a spot. I guess you could say the hard work did pay off!”

One of Gruber’s best assets is her versatility. She is a “utility” player, meaning she can play any position the coach assigns her. At Pali High, she played forward on junior varsity her first two years and left outside back as a junior on varsity last winter while on her club team she plays left forward.

Not only did Gruber make the USA squad, she was named team ambassador—an honor and responsibility she wholeheartedly embraces.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for me,” added Gruber, who lives in Brentwood. “I got an email from Maccabi offering the position of social media ambassador, so I responded to it with a pitch on why I should do it and then I got the opportunity. Part of the reason this role calls to me is because I really enjoy utilizing social media, especially vlogging (video blogging). Having this background in social media will help me portray our accomplishments on the team’s website. I will also be attending special press events throughout the Games.”

Gruber started playing soccer at Crestwood Hills Park, where she attended a toddler camp called Soccer Kids USA. As soon as she was old enough she joined AYSO Region 69, where her father Bradford was a coach and referee. Having her father as her coach helped her transition from AYSO to club as  he worked out the schedule so she could play for both leagues at the same time.

Gruber’s first club team was the Westside Breakers, where she played for over six years, mostly on teams two age levels older to match her skill level.

She joined Galaxy South Bay for a chance to play at the highest level but played only one season because the commute became too difficult. She joined Santa Monica United and found a team she loves playing for. At Paul Revere Middle School she was one of the top five Delphic League players.

“I Iove teaching soccer and being an inspiration to young kids,” Gruber said. “It makes me happy to see them enjoy the game. The thing I love most about soccer is the bond that develops between my teammates and I. The soccer pitch is my sanctuary and it gives me a place where I feel safe. I am there to do my best to support my teammates as best I can each and every time I am out there.”

Maccabi USA is bringing a team of over 400 members who will join 2,500 other Jewish athletes from 19 countries, participating in 24 different sports. Opening ceremonies are Sunday and competition lasts through July 15.

Gruber is joined on the USA Junior team by players from South Carolina, New York, California, Wisconsin, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Maryland, New Jersey and Oregon.

“It is a huge honor to be representing the USA in the Pan-American games,” Gruber said before flying to Chicago for a week of training before the Games. “I am looking forward to meeting each of my teammates and making new friends from all around the world. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! I look forward to sharing the field with girls who are competitive like me and I look forward to playing soccer internationally for the first time in Mexico.”