SOMERS, N.Y. - Ali Kalayjian and Katrina Kurtz grew up on the same street in Somers and began playing soccer together when they were 5 years old. Over the years, they’ve gone on to different teams, Katrina to the New York City Football Club and Ali to FC Fury in Bay Shore, Long Island, but their friendship has remained strong, as has their love of the game.
So much so that, when other kids their age are hanging out and making weekend plans, both girls are on the pitch.
“Every weekend, we’re like, ‘We can’t come, we have soccer!” Ali said.
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“Soccer and school are equally important in our lives,” Katrina agreed.
The girls’ fervent dedication to their sport has paid off in a big way, with both of them receiving scholarships to their dream schools, Florida State for Ali and Siena College for Katrina. This achievement has fulfilled a goal for both young athletes that started when they were just beginning to play the game.
“We’ve been playing forever, and we always knew we wanted to play in college, ever since we were young,” said Ali. “We would see the older kids on the FC teams starting to look at colleges and we’d say, ‘That’s going to be us.’”
For Ali, becoming a Seminole was something she had wanted to do for years, having attended the school’s soccer camps since she was 10 years old.
“That’s always been my dream school,” she said. “I definitely looked at other schools during my process, but Florida State always came out on top for me.”
Katrina knew that she wanted to attend a smaller, private Catholic school and she also knew that she wanted to stay in the Northeast. When she found Siena, she knew right away that this was the school that checked all the boxes.
“As soon as I stepped on campus, I just knew that I had to go there!” she said enthusiastically.
For the two lifelong friends, going to separate schools will be difficult, they admit. And there was a brief time when it seemed as though they might end up at college together, having both been recruited by UCLA. However, Ali’s dream of attending Florida State and Katrina’s desire to remain on the East Coast meant that a parting of the ways was inevitable.
Nevertheless, both girls have already vowed that the distance won’t hinder their friendship.
“We’ve already started planning our trips,” said Ali.
“Yes,” Katrina agreed. “I’m going to go down and see her when it’s cold up here, and she’ll come up and visit me when it’s warm!”
However, college is still nearly a year away, so for the time being both Ali and Katrina have plenty to keep them occupied between schoolwork, homework and practices that can go late into the evening. But for both, the hard work and the long hours are worth the effort.
“I think we just love it so much and it’s been a part of our lives for so long, we can’t imagine life without it,” said Katrina. “I think the more soccer we have in our lives, the happier we are!”
Recently, Ali and Katrina had a chance to play opposite each other, a rare opportunity for the two friends to share the field together.
“It was fun, because I’m a center back and she’s a forward,” said Ali, “so I matched up right next to her.”
“It definitely motivated me,” Katrina said. “I was like, ‘Alright, it’s Ali, I’ve got to show her how I’ve progressed!’
“And I couldn’t let her score on me!” Ali added with a laugh.
For the record, the contest ended in a tie, with Ali landing the goal that evened up the score.
After college, both girls have big plans, although both hope that sports will somehow remain a part of their respective future.
“My goal is to become a dermatologist,” said Ali. “But, if that doesn’t work, then I definitely want to do something with sports. Maybe sports medicine or sports broadcasting, because I love sports so much, I could talk about it all day long.”
“My ultimate goal is to become a collegiate coach for soccer,” Katrina said. “I’m hoping that, after going to Siena, I could become a volunteer coach for the women’s team and then hopefully get a more permanent job from there. Because, honestly, I can’t picture life without soccer.”