It's not often that a club soccer team has more than a handful of players commit to playing college soccer.
But the Tucson Soccer Academy '95 Girls Red squad is sending more than a few players to pursue college soccer - it's sending an entire roster.
Amy and Todd Garelick have coached the TSA '95 girls team for three seasons. For Amy Garelick, one of the most impressive aspects about the group is that despite the three to five weekly practices and countless sacrifices the girls have had to make over the years, they still love playing soccer.
"When you've played this long, there tends to be kids that get burned out," Garelick said. "To be 18 years old and to still be in love with this game and wanting to continue to pursue it at the next level is such a great thing for me as a coach, because it means that we've kept their love and passion for the game."
In order to compete at a high level, Garelick said, the team traveled to different cities and even to different states. That meant the girls spent lots of time together on the road and in hotels.
"My favorite memories of the team involve hotel rooms," said Karina Gabino, 17, a senior at Mountain View High School. "I take my computer, and I have like 2,000 photos of us having fun in hotel rooms."
The result is that the girls are more than just teammates, evidenced by their laughter and smiles at their early-morning signing party at Mountain View High School on Feb. 6.
"We have a pretty good relationship. I love them all," said Asia Suarez, 17, a senior at Buena High School in Sierra Vista. "We're like a family."
Mountain View seniors Laura and Priscilla Pimienta, 18, probably have the closest relationship on the team. They aren't like family - they are family. Playing soccer together since they were 8 years old, the twins said they couldn't imagine hitting the field without each other.
The girls don't have to worry about being separated in college; they're both planning to play at the University of Arizona.
"It means so much to be going to the UA together," Priscilla said. "Since we were little we always wanted to play soccer together."
Their strong relationship translated onto the soccer field, where the girls said they had an uncanny ability to read each other's position on the field, giving them the ability to pass the ball to each other without even looking.
"Some people say we have telepathy," Laura said. "I always know where she is. She always knows where I am."
The Pimientas will be joined at the UA by teammates Gabino and Justene Kesterson, 18, also both seniors at Mountain View.
"It's kind of funny because we all go to the same school and we work together," Gabino said. "I wouldn't ask for any other teammates to go with me besides these three."
Although some of the girls have decided to stick close to home, others will venture off to schools across the country.
Suarez will be taking her talents to Long Island University in New York. Although she'll be the team member farthest from Tucson, she says she's not worried about making the transition because her parents will be moving to Washington, D.C., and she has family in New York City.
"I had a family with TSA, and now I'm going to have a new family with my college team," she said.
Family support played a huge role in making it possible for the girls to reach their goals of playing in college.
Gerry Demers, 54, father to Laura Demers, 17, said he and his wife made many sacrifices of time and money to help Laura pursue her dream of playing Division I soccer. Laura started playing when she was 5, and the Demerses became dedicated to the sport. Demers attended local games, while his wife went on the road and participated as team manager.
"It's been a great experience following them the whole way. A lot of the girls have been together the whole time," he said. "Everyone's like a family, and that part is sad because that group's breaking up."
Laura, who is attending the University of New Mexico next year, plans to go to medical school someday. Although she excels academically, Laura couldn't leave her dream of playing Division I soccer behind.
"I love soccer. When I started to get more involved, it became my lifestyle," she said. "When I'm done with college, it'll be interesting. I'm not going to know what to do with myself."
For Garelick, knowing that all 17 of the team members will be receiving a college education is what makes her most proud.
"They will have this degree forever, and sports made that possible," Garelick said. "This has opened up another avenue to pursue their athletic dreams and to get a college education."
Whether they stay together or go to separate colleges, they'll make different memories. But one thing will keep them bonded: a passion for soccer.
"We get along great and we love having fun and we love this sport," Gabino said. "I think this is why we're all going to college - because we all love the game."
Scarlett McCourt is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at 573-4117 or firstname.lastname@example.org