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The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

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Junior Fiona Padalino shoots her shot for Harvard soccer

Junior Fiona Padalino checks her email as usual, and her jaw drops as her eyes scan across the screen. It’s an email from Harvard to go to a soccer camp. Padalino was in shock and denial, thinking it was a scam, but after some time she realized it was the real Harvard University that picked her. Filled with excitement, she tells her parents and they pay the fee to go to Boston for two days.

“I have been playing soccer for 10 years since I was seven,” Padalino said. “So, I was super excited Harvard would even reach out to me.”

Padalino not only has her schedule filled with soccer on Bowie’s Varsity women’s team and Austin FE Westlake soccer club, but she also plays the piano, is in Girl Scouts, and she’s in all AP or advanced classes. Doing homework and practice can be difficult but Padalino gets it done.

“For Westlake, we practice three times a week, and then we usually have two games a weekend,” Padalino said. “So, we’re practicing a lot. For school soccer, we practice every single morning during the offseason, during the in-season, we practice every morning except for game days.”

Even with Padalino’s chaotic soccer schedule she was able to academically meet Harvard’s expectations for a spot in the camp. Harvard Universities GPA requirement is between 3.9 to 4.1.

“Everyone that I met had good grades, and it seemed pretty selective,” Padalino said. “I did not know what to expect, my strategy going into it was just to be outgoing and try my best.”

Recruits have to have done very well in school, not only in education but in athletics too. The Harvard Women’s Soccer Class of 2023/24 has led the team to 49 wins, the fifth-most by a single class in the program’s history,  the most since the 1997 graduating class.

“It was super interesting to challenge myself out there and work as hard as I could in front of all these other amazing athletes,” Padalino said. “I am used to constantly seeing challenging competition, but these girls just knew how to shoot. It was a crazy competition and it was so fun.”

Soccer can not only be great for physical health by lowering body fat and improving muscle tone and endurance, but it can also have a positive impact on mental health. Soccer can help build relationships, confidence, teamwork, and decision-making skills. Physical activity also boosts endorphins, leading to a sense of euphoria which reduces stress.

“I’d say soccer has helped me with leadership skills and how to bond with other people,” Padalino said. “When you’re with a team, you need to have good chemistry on the field.”

Like with any sport soccer can be mentally challenging and keep a positive mindset, along with developing trust is key to succeeding in the sport.

“The Harvard camp taught me how to have a good mentality, to look forward to something challenging, and to know that I can build myself up to achieve it,” Padalino said. “Even if you fail, you know you know you tried your hardest, and what mistakes you made to work on and improve for next time.”

According to a three-year epidemiological study of professional soccer. Goalkeepers don’t get hurt as often as field players. While the overall and lower body injury incidence in goalkeepers was lesser than in field players, upper body accidents were higher. Goalkeepers can easily injure themselves and Padalino can relate.

“While I was at practice, this girl kneed me right in the face and I fell back and landed on the floor; everyone was calling my name, but I couldn’t hear them,” Padalino said. “I got back up and thought: ‘Let’s get back up. Let’s keep playing.’ I got up and every single person’s jaws dropped, my face was dripping blood all over the floor.”

This incident lead to quite a few complications for Padalino in the after math having experienced such a harsh injury.

“I got home, and then I went to the bathroom. I looked at it and it was so deep, I started crying, so we went to the ER, and I had to get 12 stitches in my face,” Padalino said. “I also had two black eyes and my whole face swelled up. Going back into the conflict of high competition after an injury like that, I was terrified.”

According to Padalino being a goalie can be harsh but also very rewarding. Outfield players experience more praise, but that often comes with the frustration of being benched for lengthy periods or not starting games. It is rare for a goalkeeper in the starting line-up not to play the full 90-minute game. So, coming back after her injury was a lot of pressure.

“If a goal keeper makes a mistake it’s most likely a goal, the best part is when you make a good save,” Padalino said. “You hear the crowd chanting, or your teammates compliment you. I just love the camaraderie that comes with being a goalkeeper, because everyone cheers for you when you make a save.”

According to Padalino’s teammates and friends, like junior Anna Peterson, she’s not only a good teammate but a great person and friend. She’s known to be hardworking in almost everything she tries.

“She is a great motivator on and off the field,” Peterson said. “Always pushing me to be my best and hyping me up whenever she can, not only in soccer but also in everyday life.”

The Bowie soccer community can be very supportive, not only because they are a team but also because many of the players have been playing together since they were in elementary and middle school. Soccer connects teammates in many ways; Padalino’s other teammates share similar sentiments about like those of Peterson.

“I would describe Fiona as loyal, super funny, caring, and hard-working,” senior Cristabela Mendoza said.“Fiona is great at soccer, and she’s also good at being a person who cares for everyone, while being driven and competitive on the field.”

While her teammates agree, she’s a great teammate and friend, they also agree she has a great future in soccer.

“ I think Fiona has a very bright future ahead of her, and I’m so happy that she is being found in the recruiting world,” Mendoza said.

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