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Auburn High School quarterback Troy Churney and other football players frequently trained on the school’s turf field during the summer. One day, the school girls’ soccer team was training at the same time. While training, Churney looked across the pitch and noticed the team’s star player – his longtime friend and midfielder Amelia Bartolotta.
Bartolotta, now a senior, had been on the college football team since first year. She had received several accolades for her game and pledged to play soccer at Mercyhurst University this fall. Churney knew the soccer team was going to be good this year – they had made the state playoffs last year and were back as key players – but they were in desperate need of a kicker.
Churney walked over to Bartolotta and asked her if she would ever try to kick football. At the time, she thought he was joking. But at the end of Bartolotta’s training, she was taking kicks on the pitch. Churney held every blow for her and immediately noticed that she looked natural. He took the videos and sent them to Auburn’s head coach Dave Moskov. As soon as Moskov saw the videos, he asked him to join the team.
Bartolotta has become one of Auburn’s go-to kickers, scoring almost every extra point throughout the season. Moskov sees Bartolotta as an important part of the team’s undefeated 2021 season, which ended last Wednesday. But more importantly, Moskov said, she made history as the first player in Auburn’s 130-year football history.
“I knew this was something she would love to meet because she is an outgoing girl and her mother is a strong woman,” Churney said. “The hardness kind of goes through them.”
At first Bartolotta was worried about how other players would react to a girl joining the team. But once she got to the field to train, her worries were gone.
“Putting my pads on for the first time, going down and practicing, that wasn’t weird. It was just different, ”Bartolotta said. “But my team was very supportive and included me in everything. I didn’t feel like I wasn’t the only girl there.
Before kicking a match, Bartolotta had to learn the slight differences of kicking a soccer ball versus a soccer ball. She worked with coaches on learning new tracking, steps to take before kicking, and foot placement. Moskov slowly incorporated the offensive line, a mock run and finally, full defense. He said that since Bartolotta is a great athlete and has taken training very well, she was ready to kick in at the start of the season.
In Auburn’s first game of the season he did not give any extra points as they were playing from behind and had to score two, Moskov said. But Bartolotta had his chance in the team’s first road game at Jamesville-DeWitt. She was anxious before the game, but didn’t miss a single kick in the warm-ups. Bartolotta said the mental aspect of the kicks was what surprised her the most.
“In football you don’t really think about it because it’s not like you have to put it through two studs with people coming towards you,” Bartolotta said. “I wasn’t really ready for this.”
Bartolotta missed her first three extra points of the season in this game. The opponents started telling her about the trash, so her teammates went to her and cheered her on. Churney, who holds kicks for her, spoke to Bartolotta just before her next attempt later in the game. He told her to forget about the other kicks, to stay focused, and it would pass. Bartolotta proceeded to split the uprights for his first mark of the season. After this match, she changed her mental approach.
“Now my biggest thing is not to think about it so much and just do it – do what I know and do it.” Bartolotta said.
Bartolotta knew she had to play in the next game – home coming against Central Square. Even though it wasn’t her first game, seeing the student section with all her friends who had never seen her kick before made her nervous. But when Moskov called his number, Bartolotta got a perfect six-on-six in front of the hometown crowd.
Bartolotta said she has never had any issues as a team member and that all of her teammates are respectful and treat her like any other teammate, regardless of gender. She believes that the fact that she has joined the team, weathered adversity and become a huge contributor can inspire the girls to move forward.
“Between me and more women in the sport, I feel like it opens my eyes to younger women who maybe wanted it but were scared,” Bartolotta said. “He’s kind of someone to admire.”
Posted on April 25, 2021 at 11:07 p.m.
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