Melina Couzis is a junior captain and center midfielder on the Somers girls varsity soccer team. She earned All-State honors last fall and has helped the Tuskers win two-straight Section 1 titles and a New York State title. She has already committed to play soccer in college at the University of Connecticut.
How old were you when you first started playing soccer and how did you get started?
I was three years old once I started playing. I played on an AYSO team and Bill Pepe was my coach. I don’t think I really picked to play, soccer chose me. I eventually played for FC Somers. My coach, Bob Heyde, was very encouraging, and it is amazing how many Cyclones (our team name when we were seven) are on SHSVS with me now.
The girls soccer team has had an amazing two year run with two Section 1 titles and a New York State title. Do you realize all you have accomplished as a team and how thrilling is it to play in big games under pressure?
What we did as a team over the past two years was an amazing achievement. To be able to say that we had a 42 game undefeated streak is absolutely amazing. To be able to play in such big games with all this pressure is uplifting. It’s a great experience with lots of privileges, and to be able to say that I am playing with my best friends makes it even better.
As a junior captain, how do you see your role on the team, and what goals do you have for the team coming back for next fall?
I see myself as a motivator, and the player on the field who will push the team to be the best we can. Next year, I really want to come back and prove that we are still one of the best teams in the region as well as the state. What we achieved this year was not what we wanted, but it was still an exceptional season. We have several strong returning players like Ciara Ostrander, Jenna Menta and Mary Murphy and a few girls that were new to the team this year like Brianna Penzo and Claire Mensi that really jumped right into things.
What is your favorite team activity, pre-game or post-game ritual that you share with your teammates?
My favorite team ritual is definitely the Tusker Beat. It is a kind of rhythm chant song that we do after a victory when we are away at another school on the bus ride home.
Do you play soccer for club teams and what do you do all year round to get ready for the season?
I play for a very competitive club that plays almost all year round in the Elite Clubs National League. We stop in August and begin again in mid-November. I travel all over the country with my club team, and it constantly prepares me for any season whether it’s with the high school team or for tournaments.
What does it take for a team to reach such a high level?
I believe to get a team to such a high level it takes discipline and heart. You can’t go far in life with something unless you truly want it. The fact that the whole team is friends with each other helps as well, there are 11 players out on the field that have to operate as a unit.
Who has been your biggest role model over the years and what have you learned from them?
My biggest role model is my family, they taught me to be passionate about soccer, to have high expectations and to really enjoy all aspects of life.
Tell us one thing about yourself that not a lot of people know?
My hair turns green in the pool.
You have already committed to play collegiate soccer at UConn? What made you choose UConn, what do you like about the school and the program?
I chose UConn because of its prestigious academic standards and its history for women’s sports. I loved the campus and the family environment of the soccer team. The coach, Len Tsantiris, is a legend. He has been at the school for 35 years, the assistants chose to work with him and have stayed with him for ten years. Together, they have led the program to multiple NCAA appearances.
Do you know what you want to study? If yes what and why?
At UConn I am planning on majoring in Kinesiology. I would love to be a trainer for a professional sports team. I can’t imagine sports not being a part of my daily life.
Who is your favorite professional athlete and pro sports team?
My favorite professional athlete is Tobin Heath. My favorite professional soccer team is Liverpool FC. I love them both because they are not always the most popular with the crowd, they are the underdogs, and as a result they fight hard.
What is your favorite music to listen to warming up for a game?
My favorite music before a game is anything with lyrics that inspire me.
If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
Super speed because I would be able to do things much faster!
If you could pick one place to visit on vacation that you’ve never been to, where would you go and why?
I went to the Greek island of Santorini two summers ago and it was everything the travel brochures made it out to be! Next stop, I’d love to go to Fiji because it seems so relaxing and it is beautiful.
What is your favorite food to eat before or after a game? Best place to eat in Somers and why?
Carbs before game, protein after, but always from Froggy’s, of course!! They know all the athletes and most of the kids from Somers, and they treat us like family.
For a young girl growing up in Somers, what would you tell them about the experience of being part of the girls soccer program and why should they go out for the team?
The best experience of being on SHSVS is that the team is a family. You always know that you have coach Paul Saia and 20 girls on your side to be there when you need them most. I feel that having fun with your friends is the best thing you can ask for in a program. Young girls should aspire to be on this team because of all the environment and energy of the team. You learn so many things from this team, and there is no better way to do it than with your friends.