Brother and Sister fulfill family dream

Cherrymay Ortiz
Alessandro and Cherrymay Ortiz

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 team, respectively.

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.

 “Pitt-Bradford actually contacted my sister first after seeing her play in a tournament,” said Alessandro.

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 Alessandro.

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 successful career.

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.