NEWINGTON - The Newington girls soccer home crowd had plenty to cheer about in a 5-0 rout of Bristol Eastern on Monday afternoon, but the loudest roar came midway through the second half on a throw-in from Eastern senior captain Leah Policarpio.
The reaction from the Newington crowd was rooted more in awe than anything else. After all, most of the crowd had never seen what Policarpio pulled off with 23 minutes left in a 4-0 rout, at least not at the high school level.
Preparing for a throw-in almost right next to the corner flag, Policarpio placed the ball on the grass two steps before the sideline, took two steps back, and broke out into a flawless pirouette that was almost too fluid to process in real time.
Policarpio lunged forward and straddled the ball with her hands, which were now planted in the grass to support her body as it flipped upward and over the ball, and grabbed the ball just as her feet began to fall from above her head and onto the ground, providing enough momentum for the senior to heave the ball on her way back into a standing pose, watching as the ball sailed all the way to the middle of Newington’s box.
The flip throw had the strength and trajectory of a corner kick, and as the ball landed in front of Indians goalkeeper Ella DePase, the home crowd simultaneously turned to each other and buzzed as if Newington had scored a game-winning goal.
“Did you see what she just did?!” one fan said, twisting so fast around in his chair that it almost collapsed to the ground.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before,” said another, with hands on top of his head in disbelief.
The throw from Policarpio was still the talk of the game as Newington built a cozy lead, as the Indians fans debated if they had ever seen such a move in a high school game.
It looked almost too complex for it to be done so effectively by a high school senior. But for Policarpio, her athletic background made learning the flip throw as seamless as it looks in action.
“I’ve been doing gymnastics for 13 years now, and one day my dad came up to me and said ‘hey, there’s this thing called a flip throw, you should probably try it,’” Policarpio explained. “So I started practicing in my backyard and went from there.”
For Policarpio, it was as simple as that.
Sure, she wasn’t launching throw-ins in line with the middle of the opposing team’s net right away, but she was already used to the motion of a flip, and her gymnastics and soccer background made for a perfect marriage which her flip throw could thrive under.
“It just clicked for me,” Policarpio said. “I’ve gotten better over the years, but it used to land right where the box starts. Now I can get it to the middle of the box.”
Policarpio’s flip throw is much more than a ‘trick shot.’ It can create scoring chances out of seemingly nothing, which is why Eastern head coach Scott Redman always gives Policarpio the green light for the flip throw.
“There’s more girls now that are able to do it, but it’s not just cool, it’s effective,” Redman said. “We’ve yet to get girls on the other end and take advantage of it this year. But it’s not just cool, it’s purposeful.”
Other teammates and friends have seen the flip throw’s potential and want to replicate it, and that’s where the hardest part of the move comes in for Policarpio. Not everyone shares the same background, and not everyone can catch on as quickly.
“For me, it was sort of easy because of gymnastics, and I do moves like that at least twice a week,” Policarpio explained. “But I’ve had people come up to me and ask to teach them, and I try sometimes, but it’s a little harder for them.”
Luckily for the Lancers, they have at least one player who can pull it off, and it’s certain to drop the jaws of many opposing fans throughout the rest of the season.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org