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Roccaro kicking her way to soccer stardom

East Islip midfielder Cari Roccaro controls ball against

East Islip midfielder Cari Roccaro controls ball against Smithtown's Gabby Scirica during the East Islip win over Smithtown West girls soccer. (Oct. 20, 2011) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

While walking along the coast of Hermosa Beach in California with her national team, Cari Roccaro spotted a familiar face.

"Is that Abby Wambach?" she asked her teammates.

Wambach, a professional soccer player and Women's World Cup hero, noticed the national team apparel the girls were wearing and approached them to talk soccer.

"It's so weird because I'm like, 'Wow, she's famous,'" Roccaro said. "But at the same time, I'm like, 'Wow, I could be like that soon.' She was once in my shoes and now I could possibly be in hers in a few years."

For Roccaro, a central midfielder whose five-year East Islip varsity career concluded on Monday, the chance encounter was the highlight of a nine-day soccer getaway.

She recently spent the weekend at her future university, Notre Dame, before heading to Los Angeles for the U-18 Women's National Team training camp. She chronicled her experience and shared it with Newsday:

DAY ONE

Friday, Oct. 21"I woke up very early and had a flight into Chicago Midway airport. The drive from the airport to Notre Dame is about two hours . . .People were already crowding the campus for the girls soccer game, men's hockey game and football game."

Soon, she'll be one of the athletes that crowds fill the campus to see. Her scholarship to Notre Dame was the culmination of a devotion to the game that began at 4 and helped her become the nation's fifth best player in her age group, according to rankings by Top Drawer Soccer.

She made EI's varsity team as an eighth-grader, and led the Redmen to a Long Island Championship in her freshman year. She was named Suffolk Player of the Year and an All-American as a junior. The accolades for her senior season, in which she had 11 goals and three assists, are soon to come.

DAY TWO

Saturday Oct. 22"Our seats (for the Notre Dame/USC football game) were in the first and second rows . . . The women's soccer team went onto the field and got recognized for winning the 2010 National Championship. I am very happy for them but I just hope that will be me one day."

DAY THREE

Sunday, Oct. 23

"Today I left ND and went to L.A. We trained at the Home Depot Center . . . We had a meeting about training mentality and the importance of playing for the national team. We saw a video that the women's team watched before their World Cup final. It was inspiring."

Added inspiration for an already ambitious player. In addition to playing for East Islip, she's also on the Albertson Fury and the captain of the U-18 Women's National Team. She hopes to play professionally, in the United States or Europe, and ultimately compete for the World Cup.

DAY FOUR

Monday, Oct. 24"We took fitness tests today (vertical jump, arrow test, 20-meter dash). It was very tiring. We did some Nike Elite testing, which was testing more of our skill and speed with the ball."

DAY FIVE

Tuesday, Oct. 25

"Everyone was sore from yesterday. Our training was very technical and we split into 11 vs. 11 and scrimmaged at the end . . . Tomorrow is game day."

On game days, her skills are easily recognizable, her impact regularly felt. Certainly that is true for crosstown rivals who've faced her too often for their liking.

"She's been the top player that I've coached against," West Islip girls soccer coach Nick Grieco said. "She's got everything -- the size, the speed, the skill."

The size? At 5-6, she's a force in the air. The speed? She was once a track star. The skills? She's technically sound in all aspects, from footwork to anticipation.

DAY SIXWednesday, Oct. 26

"We played the U-17 women's national team and won, 2-0. We played well and it was a lot of fun because we are all good friends with those girls . . . I am very sore and tired, and I can barely move."

DAY SEVEN

Thursday, Oct. 27

"We went to the beach for regeneration . . . Our coach, April Heinrichs, made a presentation about "grit" and how it's needed in an athlete for success."

Roccaro's success has enabled her to play everywhere from Florida to Costa Rica, Texas to Argentina, California to Denmark and East Islip to South Bend.

"I can't wait to see what the future holds for her," said former East Islip coach Michelle Trombetta, who coached Roccaro for the bulk of her high school career. "She could literally play and be deadly at any position."

DAY EIGHT

Friday, Oct. 28

"The second training was fun and it was the last one of camp. We worked on heading and 3 vs. 2's . . . I went to treatment with my friends to "foam roll" my legs so my muscles won't hurt as much."

DAY NINESaturday, Oct. 29

"Today is our last full day . . . I had an individual evaluation with my coaches . . . We played very well against a women's semipro team and it felt great to wear the captain's band and lead my team . . . I'm getting up at 4:30 a.m. tomorrow to head back to NY. I'm going to miss my friends so much.

It's Roccaro who will be missed as she moves onto the next phase of her soccer career and inches toward reaching her goals.

"Every night before I went to sleep when I was young, I'd always hope that I would be a pro soccer player and everyone would know who I was," Roccaro said. "Back then it seemed like a dream. Then I started to get older and I kept working at it and here I am. My dream has never changed."

If that dream plays out as she hopes, she'll soon be the one getting spotted by someone who asks:

"Is that Cari Roccaro?"

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