South athletes take friendships to the field


Bella Gemignani

Progressing Players: Working together as teammates for the better part of their soccer careers, juniors Bella Gemignani and Lilly O’Rourke have taken their partnership to the South girls’ soccer team. Gemignani and O’Rourke take a photo together every year at tournaments they compete in, with photos from 2015 and 2020 pictured.

Sarah Ordway, asst. opinions editor

Passing a teammate the ball, anticipating their next move, knowing where a teammate is going to make a move even before they do. It may seem like telepathy, but for many of South’s athletes, long-standing friendships amongst teammates have resulted in them being one step ahead of their competition.

Despite South teams only providing a four-year snapshot into students’ athletic careers, some of South’s athletes have connections that begin long before their freshman year. Juniors Clara Hart and Kristina McKay have known each other far longer since before their field hockey careers began.

When they were younger, the two carpooled together to every game and practiced to the point where it was out of the ordinary if they did not  show up together.

“I don’t remember ever not being friends,” McKay said. “We have lived near each other our whole lives. We lived within biking distance when we were kids.”

Long-term friendships have not just improved the experience for players, but have also provided them with a sense of continuity. Mark Daniels, South girls’ soccer head coach, relies on his players’ close bonds with each other every season during games and practices, but he consistently looks out for players that have known each other for even longer periods of time.

“Usually, the [grades] stay together,” Daniels explained. “As far as team chemistry, knowing where each other are [on the field, knowing] how each other reacts in stressful and competitive situations and having that experience being together, kind of supporting each other, is important.”

For two of his players, juniors Bella Gemignani and Lilly O’Rourke, their experience playing together since second grade has taught them to anticipate each other’s plays and gain an edge over the opposing team.

“I think that I have really gotten to know Bella, as a friend and also as a player,” O’Rourke said. “Sometimes I can kind of anticipate where she is going to pass or how she is going to play something. I think that comes with knowing each other really well on the field but also really well off of it.”

Every time O’Rourke and Gemignani get onto the same field, they get to share this competitiveness and a variety of memories that they have enjoyed over the course of their soccer careers.

“I think there are a lot of traditions that we have established over the years,” O’Rourke stated. “Whenever we go to tournaments, we have a tradition where we’ll take a picture with each other with whatever trophies we have won.”

But, being great friends does not just come with memorable anecdotes or a long-lasting bond. For McKay and Hart, since they both started playing at the same time, they have gotten the chance to understand each other’s skill level and each other’s capabilities.

“If you are making a play with someone, you know how they play,” McKay said. “[You know] if they’re going to be there [or] if they are going to [cut in a different direction], so it is nice to know someone that well. It kind of makes them more predictable.”