Geneseo has cultivated a reputation for excellence, both in the classroom and on the athletic field. The women's soccer team, however, features a unique situation.
This reputation for high quality academic instruction and athletic competition has drawn together three sets of siblings, all on the women's soccer team. While it's not unheard of for siblings to go to the same college, it's rather rare for both to play the same sport while in college. These three sets of siblings form the core of this year's SUNYAC championship team.
There's senior Stephanie Bergin, one of seven players who started all 20 games this year for the Knights and her sister Kelly, who's a sophomore. Joining the Bergin sisters are senior Melissa Beale - another 20-game starter - and her younger sister Katie, a freshman. The final pair to join the team is junior Meghan Verdino and her younger sister Stephanie, a freshman.
The sisters, while each in similar situations, said that they all have different feelings about their experiences of playing with their sibling. Katie joked that she has no identity on the team being the younger sibling. "There's three other Katies on the team and I was always called Beale in high school so no one really knows what to call me," she said. Meghan added, "Sometimes it's like I can read her mind when she's out there playing, I know what she's going to do next."
One thing that the younger siblings said they agreed upon was that having an older sister already on the team made the transition to playing collegiate soccer easier both physically and mentally. "It's nice that there's always someone there for you," Kelly said.
Stephanie Verdino added, "I came and visited a lot and she introduced me to everyone so I already felt welcome when I came." Katie noted, "It's nice to have someone who knows what it's like to train for a college team, someone who can help you get through that last rep or last sprint."
There was a unanimous agreement that while head coach Nate Wiley rarely confuses them, other players on the field often do. Kelly commented, "We look similar when we play." Her sister added, "Even our own teammates confuse us from time to time."
When it came time for their younger sisters to come to college, both Stephanie Bergin and Melissa urged their siblings to join them at Geneseo. "I didn't push her exactly," Melissa said and then added with a laugh, "But I told her there were definitely schools she couldn't go to."
Meghan had a different take. "I really wanted her to come here but she had other options and she ended up deferring to come here over some pretty good schools," she said. "It meant a lot to me that she would wait so she could come and play here."
Going through a nearly identical college situation, which might seem strange to some, fails to faze any of the siblings. Melissa highlighted one of the perks, especially when it came to soccer: "It's nice to have a familiar face around, often when I'm angry on the field I'll take it out on her rather than yell at a teammate because she'll brush it off."
All six of the sisters are major contributors to the team, though this year Meghan, who started both of the previous years, was sidelined by injuries.
At one point, the team was 5-4-1 and had not won a game in four matches. The team then went on a nine game winning streak, culminating in a conference championship. "We decided as a team that we wanted a good season so we started over from scratch," Kelly said. Her sister added, "I think what really helped was that we switched our formation, from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2."
All of the sisters agreed that it was a joint effort of motivating their team and pushing each player to excel that also helped to turn their season around. "A big part of it was that we started doing a lot more together as a team," Katie said.
Ironically, the team's last loss in that four game slump came against SUNY Oneonta, the team that the Knights beat in order to advance to the finals. Melissa said, "The second time we played them we were a completely different team; the first game was wiped from my memory, we knew we could beat them." Stephanie Verdino added, "It was after that loss that we got together and decided we wanted to turn it around."
One of the few things that all six agreed on was that despite going to school and playing the same sport, nothing has changed between them as siblings. They said, if anything, playing together has brought them closer together as sisters and as friends. "We might argue, but she's the first person I'd call if I had something important to tell someone," Katie said.