Of Soccer & squids
LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — At first glance, you might think that soccer and squids don’t mix.
But for 18-year old Sullivan West senior Caitlin “Cait” Brockner, the saga of the game of soccer and the study of cephalopods and other denizens of the deep is a match that blends athletic prowess with a desire to further her education in the field of marine biology.
On Friday, November 30, Brockner was the center of attention at a ceremony in the local high school’s library as she signed a letter of commitment to play soccer at the University of Maine at Machias (UMM), which is described by her soon-to-be college girls’ soccer coach Betty “BJ” Marshall, as “a small college with the feel of a small town.”
The journey to playing her chosen sport at a United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) Division II school started out when she was a fledgling four-year-old booter with the American Youth Soccer Organization’s (AYSO) team in Callicoon, NY.
From there, she moved up to playing soccer on the girls’ junior varsity team at Sullivan West during her freshman and sophomore years under the guidance of Coach Diana Hahn.
“She was a strong player…allowed for the offense to start getting set up to play,” recalled Hahn of those formative seasons of soccer.
“I always emphasized teamwork, and she has natural abilities along with her skills, in terms of control and backup, directing the ball.”
Varsity coach Mike “Elmo” Ellmauer, along with his dedicated assistant staff, tutored “Cait” during her junior and senior years as she developed her skills as a midfielder and defender.
“She’s a hell of a player, very intense, knows the game and where she’s going (on the field),” said Ellmauer.
“She has a good eye for the sport…if somebody didn’t get there, she got frustrated, if somebody was there, it was ‘Yes!’”, he added, referring to Brockner’s ability to read the flow of play as her teammates advanced the ball toward the opponent’s net.
“They’re getting a real good girl to boost up their program…it’s a nice little program, and I wish her well.”
Rounding out Brockner’s ‘soccer experience’, she was coached by Gerry Linn for 3 years as part of TASS(Technique-Ability-Speed-Skill), a soccer program of the Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA) traveling soccer organization, locally based in Honesdale, PA.
During her varsity soccer career at Sullivan West, Brockner played in 33 matches, posted 82 shots, fired 54 shots on goal which resulted in 7 goals scored, and was credited with 6 assists.
Thanks to assistant coach and the high school’s resident statistician Kurt Schiebe for the numbers.
In her freshman year on the JV squad, the team was undefeated, while in her junior year in the varsity program the Lady Bulldogs booters were unbeaten in their division.
Along with her passion for soccer, Brockner is a distance runner on the school’s winter and spring track teams…but that’s for another story.
As her sports saga evolves, Brockner hangs up her Sullivan West jersey #23, and in the fall will don #20 for the Clippers of UMM, which prides itself as “Maine’s Marine University”.
According to the college’s website, it is “ideal for courses related to marine biology, ecology, and mariculture—where students have direct access to inter-tidal and sub-tidal marine habitats and organizations, finfish and shellfish aquaculture sites and hatcheries and commercial fishing ports.”
Sort of makes you want to pass on that next ‘biggie-size me’ order of filet-o-fish.
Contacted by email, her upcoming college soccer coach “BJ” Marshall said she “expects Caitlin to perform in the classroom and on the pitch…Caitlin has the talent to come in and fill our center mid position from the start of her college career,”
“She’s a solid player with exceptional soccer IQ. Watching her play with our current team at one of our recruiting events was impressive, she has (will have) chemistry with her teammates!”
According to Marshall, she looks for student athletes who excel in the classroom as well as on the fields of play, earning places on the USCAA All-Academic membership list, “or at least” being selected as members of the Yankee Small College Conference (YSCC) All-Academic Team.
“I look for young women who have proven to be serious student athletes in high school,” she explained.
After Brockner signed up to play soccer at college, she posed for a few photos with a cadre of multi-generational relatives ranging in age from 8 to 85.
Eight-year old cousin Jaelyn Brockner and octogenarian grandmother Mary Catherine Hessinger were joined by a few more members of the clan: grandparents John “Jackie” and Joann Brockner, along with her folks Gary and Michele.
“She found her niche. Not many kids get to be happy and find the right spot for them(selves),” said Michele Brockner, adding that as part of the TASS NEPA program, they traveled to tournaments ranging from neighboring PA to CT.
And now a few words from Caitlin.
Asked why she decided to study college-level marine biology, she replied, “I grew up on Anawanda Lake, and I always had a love of nature, especially marine animals…”
It’s always a good idea to pay homage to your coaches, and Brockner is no exception to that rule, first recognizing her modified helmsman Linda Pomes from a few years in the past.
“She really taught me to love the game and have fun with it,” she said.
And then on to her varsity coaching staff of head coach Ellmauer and assistant coach Anthony Durkin, stating that “Durkin is a really amazing defensive coach,” adding of Ellmauer, “the plays he sets up are amazing.”
“They really know what they are talking about, and really love the game (and) teach us kids to love the game and play right.”
And so Brockner’s tale of soccer and squids continues to the next chapter.