FC Premier 16u squad really is United
When next school year begins, they will all head their separate ways.
They will star for their high school teams and often times they will square off, with perhaps even the season on the line.
However, on a sunny May afternoon they are teammates. They come places like Johnson City, Susquehanna Valley, Waverly and even Athens.
They come together with one goal, to try and lead their premier 16u United FC team to success and on this day they get a 1-0 victory to advance to the State Cup Final Four.
"It feels good," Athens' Kirsten Colegrove said. "We have been back there (the State Cup) the past four years and we are trying to get better and better each time. The last time we only took fourth, we are definitely trying to get higher. I think this year we are a lot more confident going in and trying to place higher."
For the players, this travel team has become something very important to them. Maybe because of the time they spend together, maybe because they are all stars on their high school team, they treat this team like it's a family.
"We are like sisters," Rosemary Zelenyak said.
"It helps that when we are gone all weekend, we are there for each other," Colegrove said. "It's different with school soccer, it's just a couple games a week and it's closer. It's really different."
And it's different playing the top level of competition game after game.
"I feel that this is a much higher level," Savannah Rigo said. "We all get a long really well. School soccer just isn't the same as this."
You can see it on the players faces how seriously they take the games. As Waverly's Allie Frutchey watches her high school teammate Emiley Myers try and stop a penalty kick, the team's normal starting goalkeeper, who was out with an injury, was as nervous as Myers was.
"I trust her," Frutchey said. "But, I definitely was nervous watching."
And for Myers, it was a chance to see how much Frutchey brings to the game and how badly she wants her back on the field.
"I miss having her play goal," Myers said.
For Myers, Frutchey and Lila Carpenter, the summer is just a chance for three high school teammates at Waverly to spend more time together.
For someone like Colegrove, it's a little different. While most everyone on the team plays high school soccer in New York, she plays in Pennsylvania. And she has learned a lot being around these players, and seeing the competition she plays in premier travel league.
"It's a lot quicker," she said of the play. "I feel like we all know each other well, though; we know what each other is going to do.
"We all had a really hate relationship in the beginning, then we became best friends as the seasons have gone on."
And, one benefit of playing on a roster full of star players is there isn't the same pressure on one person as you might find during the high school season.
"I like it a lot better," Colegrove said. "For our Fusion team there are more people scoring so there's not as much pressure on me."
Coming from all different types of high schools, and all different leagues, the players know they have to work hard when they come together for the Fusion.
"You have to make sure you get up to speed," Rigo said. "If your school team isn't up to par, you just have to work even harder."
"We always have to work really hard in our games," Mallory Fox said.
There are times during the high school seasons when these teammates, and friends, become opponents.
This past season Zelenyak and her high school team met Myers, Frutchey and Carpenter in the Section IV playoffs. It's something that can be common for a number of the Fusion players.
"We always play really hard against each other," Ashley Connolly said. "And, then at the end we all laugh about it."
"When we are playing against each other, we play 10 times harder," Rigo said.
One of the biggest things that the Fusion team does for these players is helps their chances to be noticed by colleges.
"I don't know where I'd be if I didn't do this," Colegrove said. "It helps a lot."
"We do a lot of college showcases," Sierra Barr said. "And, the State Cup is big, when we go to that, a lot of coaches come and watch us."
The State Cup is the next, and perhaps biggest, thing on the players minds.
After reaching the final four, now they have some big goals in mind.
"It's awesome," Myers said of reaching the final four. "It's great, we finished fourth last time, hopefully we do better. Hopefully we can win it."