Senior midfielder Madeline Saccocio is no stranger to a goal, both reaching and shooting them.
To no one’s surprise, the blue-eyed Schenectady, NY, native kicked off the university’s women’s soccer season-opening game by scoring the only two goals game-long against Castleton University.
“Scoring is always a confidence booster, but it just picked up the momentum of everyone else,” Saccocio said, adding that it was just as vital to keep the goals out of the Cardinals’ net as it was to put them in Castleton’s.
Though she believes the season looks like a promising end to her collegiate soccer career, that doesn’t mean Saccocio is ready to say goodbye to something so ingrained in her identity.
“I was swept into it when I was four or five. My brother, my sister, my cousins – they all played soccer,” Saccocio said. “I don’t even know if it was my choice, but I loved it.”
One person also preparing for Saccocio’s departure is coach Tania Armellino, who joined the Plattsburgh team in 2014, the same year as Saccocio.
“We started together. Their class is first class that we’ll have had all four years,” Armellino said. Though the feeling is bittersweet, Armellino feels lucky more than anything.
“Madeline is fantastic, and the class is amazing. We couldn’t have walked into a better group of young women,” Armellino said.
“Humble” and “hardworking” are just two words Armellino would use in a string of high praise for the player, who made SUNYAC’s All-Conference First Team as a sophomore.
Saccocio received this honor not only due to her talent and ability, but in spite of a rare and limiting condition, later discovered as compartment syndrome.
Saccocio breezed through her pre-college years without injury, only to notice a pain in both her legs during 2014’s pre-season. Initially, she suspected shin splints.
“I ignored it,” Saccocio said. Soon though, she found herself having to stop half-way even walking to class.
It was during the last game of her freshman year, while playing against Geneseo, that Saccocio suffered a stress fracture.
Doctors in Albany, NY, conducted a stress test on the athlete’s legs, and determined she had a high buildup of pressure and blood in both legs, with surgery being the only option to fix it.
“That was a scary notion because I had never even had a sprained ankle, and then all of the sudden, I can’t even walk,” Saccocio said.
Saccocio weighed her options. She faced significant scarring, a 30 percent failure rate and the possibility she might have to forfeit not only soccer, but her active lifestyle.
“I decided to do it because it was the only way,” Saccocio said. She underwent one surgery in May 2015 and another the following month. By the time she recovered, she had two weeks to prepare for sophomore pre-season.
“I remember Maddy saying to me, “I couldn’t imagine not playing,’” Armellino said. “That’s how much she loves the game.”
Saccocio went on to repeat her placement on SUNYAC’s first team, and earn NSCAA’s Division III All-East Region Recognition status in 2016.
“She still made such an impact – even when she was limited in her injury and in her recovery,” Armellino said.
One thing that kept spirits fun and light during those first two difficult seasons, was the dynamic between sisters and teammates Madeline and Hannah.
“I was very lucky I got the Saccocio sisters,” Armellino said.
Hannah was a junior on the team when Armellino and Madeline joined.
The girls, two years apart, twice had the experience of playing for the same team.
“It was a cool thing getting to play together in high school and at the collegiate level,” Hannah said. “Especially because we know how each other plays.”
Hannah, now a registered nurse, called soccer a unifying force for the duo.
“We had this running joke when they played on the same side – ‘Pass it to your sister!’” Armellino said.
It looks as if Saccocio will again join her sister in the health field after graduation on her pursuit to become a registered dietician. And though she’s not sure in what capacity, she is certain soccer will remain part of her.
It would seem that old habits die hard.
Email Rebecca Natale at firstname.lastname@example.org