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Passing the torch

St. Hubert High School senior Ava Pizzaro is enjoying playing soccer with her sister her final year.

St. Hubert striker Ava Pizzaro (10) is one of the top scorers in the Catholic League. PHOTO: AVA PIZZARO

Ava Pizzaro has done a lot on the soccer field.

The St. Hubert High School senior has scored big goals, she’s made big plays and she’s helped the Bambies win a lot of games. But before this year, there was one thing she never did that she really wanted to do.

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“I played for a long time but I never really played with my sister, not on a team,” said Pizzaro, a high-scoring striker. “My sister Celeste is a defender and she’s very good. We never played together, so this year is very special.

“We would mess around and play at parties and things like that, but we were never together on the same team. She’s really tough, and I’m seeing how great she is every time we play. She doesn’t let anyone get past her and even though she’s a freshman, she’s one of the best players out there. It’s great that I’m getting a chance to do this.”

The younger sister might be very good, but she’s gotten a lot of help from her big sister.

Pizzaro has been one of the top scorers for the Bambies for the past two years. This year, she’s recorded 12 tallies, and in the process helped Hubert stay in the mix for the top spot in the Catholic League.

The balanced league sees three teams, Archbishop Ryan and Archbishop Wood at 7–0–1. Cardinal O’Hara is also unbeaten at 4–0–3. St. Hubert is just behind at 6–1–1.

Last year, the Bambies finished in second place in the Catholic League, and the season ended in the Class 6A city championship game.

“Last year was good and I really think we can do as well as we did last year or even better,” Pizzaro said. “There are other good teams, too, so it won’t be easy, but we have good players and we’re really motivated.”

They’ll go as far as Pizzaro’s offense takes her.

And while it looks like she’s been scoring goals her entire life, that’s not how it went down.

“When I started playing soccer, I was a sweeper because I was pretty fast,” Pizzaro said.

“One game, they needed me to play up because they needed my speed, so I played up and it just worked. I still like playing defense, but I like playing offense, too. Both are great, but offense is where I’m needed now.”

It’s safe to say Pizzaro is right where she’s needed. And she’s right where she needs to be after suffering a torn ACL a few years back.

It wasn’t easy to get back to the level of being one of the best players in the Catholic League, but the hard work was well worth it.

“When you’re coming back, you have to work 10 times harder because you want to get back to where you were and you’re not able to do as much when you’re trying to get better,” Pizzaro said. “It took a full year to get back in shape. I missed a full year because of it because if you rush back, you’ll get hurt again. I worked hard to get back.”

That attitude, coupled with the hard work she was willing to put in, helped Pizzaro become a captain. And leadership is important to this squad because it’s such a small team.

Hubert has a junior varsity team, but there are only 15 players on the varsity squad. That means, in most games, there are only a few substitutes, so the players have to be in great shape.

“Staying fit is really important because you’re on the field the whole game most of the time,” Pizzaro said. “It makes us work harder. We have to be in shape.”

She’s hoping that fitness helps the Bambies get where they want to go — to the Catholic League championship.

Obviously in a balanced league, it’s tough to bring home the plaque, but Pizzaro is optimistic her squad can play with anyone.

“We’re young, but we don’t look at it as having a young team,” Pizzaro said. “We don’t have freshmen, sophomores or juniors out there, we’re all the same. We’re all on the team. I told my sister that, but it’s for everyone. Everybody has to play like they’re a senior. We’ll all help each other.”

Next year, Pizzaro hopes to continue her soccer career, and ideally she’ll play at the University of Tennessee. That remains up in the air, but she’s fairly certain she wants to study criminology.

“I’ve always loved watching the shows like CSI, Criminal Minds and Law & Order,” Pizzaro said. “I know it’s nothing like that, when you work in those (fields), but I think it’s really interesting. I think you can do good things and it seems like a fun job.”

Another fun job would be winning the Catholic League championship.

But even if the Bambies fall short, next year she’ll return to watch her younger sister try to carry on the legacy. And if she ends up staying close to home, she’ll be a fixture on the Hubert sideline.

“I think they’ll be good for a long time,” Pizzaro said.

“I’m happy for my sister because she’s going to be a really good player. And I’ll be around to watch. I can’t wait to see what she does.” ••

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