Two sibling soccer players at Pitt-Bradford are living their
father’s dream: They’re both playing the sport their father grew up playing on
the streets of Ecuador, and they’re even wearing the same number he wore when
he was an NCAA division I athlete.
Brother and sister, Allesandro and Cherrymay Ortiz, from
Easton, Pa., are freshmen players on Pitt-Bradford’s men’s and women’s soccer
Soccer has always been an important part of the close-knit family’s
lives, and they both discovered their love of the game at an early age.
“We are a huge soccer family. We played and watched soccer
all the time. Our lives have always revolved around soccer,” said Alessandro.
Cherrymay, a self-described “princess,” says it took her a
little longer to come around to the game.
“I didn’t like going to practice, and I wore pink all the
time. When I turned 14, I started playing travel ball,and I started realizing I had some talent. I knew with more coaching and
instruction I could be really good,” said Cherrymay.
Their father was a driving force behind their deep belief
that they could achieve their goals and
dreams if they were willing to work for them. This was ultimately behind their
family’s decision to uproot and begin a new life in this country.
“I got to hear from my parents about how they started from
nothing and had to work their way up. It gave me a better view of what I wanted
to do with my life. I want to take what my parents have done and go further.
They want us to finish what they started,” said Cherrymay.
As if to fulfill a prophecy, the two played soccer successfully
throughout their high school years and made the decision to pursue
opportunities to play at the collegiate level.
contacted my sister first after seeing her play in a tournament,” said
Pitt-Bradford head women’s soccer coach Mike Idland and his
assistant were watching a tournament in Lititz, Pa., known as the Lititz Showcase,
when they came across the strong midfielder. They liked what they saw.
“She had a lot of presence in the middle of the field that
we liked. She was good on the ball and had good vision. She was real solid in
terms of the defensive challenges she was making and that should always be a
piece of the puzzle in the middle of the field for a team,” said Idland.
The fact that both players were recruited by Pitt-Bradford
was just the first of many coincidences they would experience.
Pitt-Bradford head men’s soccer coach Darek Panol had the
chance to watch Alessandro in the Super Y League, playing for the Keystone
Athletic Super 20, and came away impressed.
“He had the natural flare and confidence you look for in a
player. You could tell he was very talented. He had something special, and I
can’t describe it, but as a coach you know it when you see it,” said Panol.
In a casual conversation at the office one day, Idland and
Panol were discussing two players they were currently recruiting. They both
mentioned the last name Ortiz and were surprised to find out they were actually
recruiting siblings without ever knowing.
“It was funny because Mike said that last name, and I said I
have an Ortiz too. It was totally separate and a random coincidence. From that
point, we started working together to get them up here on a visit so we could
meet their family,” said Panol.
Alessandro and Cherrymay were excited to find out the same
school was recruiting them because, until that point, they didn’t think going
to the next level together would be an option.
The Ortiz family made the five-hour trip to Bradford, Pa., where
the siblings decided they would be together.
“At one point on our
visit, I think it was during the campus tour, Alessandro looked over at me and
smiled and just nodded his head. That’s when I knew this was it. From the
beginning, we knew when we got here this would be the place,” said Cherrymay.
“I was actually talking to a couple of other schools at the time,
but none were recruiting me and my sister together. I looked at Pitt-Bradford
and how their team was growing and that the opportunity to play as a freshman
was there. I knew then that I wanted to play for this program,” added
The idea of the two playing at the same school was
comforting for the entire Ortiz family.
“My dad is a big family person and wanted us to be able to
rely on each other in college. Alessandro and I have always been so close. He
appreciated this opportunity for us,” said Cherrymay.
Once they arrived on campus, they were both placed in the
number 23 jersey for their respected teams. This wasn’t something they planned.
In fact, they didn’t know they each had the same number until it was time for pictures,
and they both put their uniforms on.
“I originally wanted to wear number 11, and she wanted
something else. In the end, we both ended up with 23 and that’s something we
are now proud to have,” said Alessandro.
As close as the two are, there is a fierce sibling rivalry
that dates back to when they were kids. Competition has always been a trademark
of their relationship.
“We are both very competitive with each other. If she scores
a goal, she will come bragging to me that she scored, and I know I better score,
too, or I will never hear the end of it. My dad always taught us to do the best
we could,and so now we are always pushing
each other,” said Alessandro.
As freshmen on the field this season, Cherrymay and
Alessandro have both worked their way into playing time. Of the eight games
played, Alessandro has started six of them and scored three goals. Cherrymay
has started in three games but has seen the field in all but one. She has yet
to score a goal, which fuels the sibling rivalry even more.
Placing competition and rivalry aside, Cherrymay hopes to be
working as an athletic trainer for a professional soccer team in five years.
Alessandro’s dream is to finish his degree in civil engineering and pursue a
For their father, the man who worked so hard to bring this
opportunity to his family, the thrill of watching them play collegiate soccer
and grow together is now a reality and a dream realized.