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Ex-East Islip star Cari Roccaro is goal oriented -- and she is succeeding

Lindsey Horan, left, celebrate her goal against Mexico

Lindsey Horan, left, celebrate her goal against Mexico with teammates Sarah Killion, second left to right, Crystal Dunn and Cari Roccaro during a Concacaf women’s under-20 semifinal soccer match in Panama City. (March 9, 2012) Credit: AP

Dressed as a Ninja Turtle -- green body paint, shell, headband and all -- "going nuts" at a Notre Dame volleyball match.

That was Cari Roccaro.

Hanging out last spring with young East Islip soccer players, girls enthralled with the legacy of the former Redmen superstar, and having them pick her brain.

That was Cari Roccaro.

Captaining Team USA's under-20 women's squad and helping them capture the CONCACAF championship in the Cayman Islands.

That was Cari Roccaro last Sunday.

The East Islip native helped key the United States' 4-0 victory over Mexico to win the tournament, which they dominated, and secure a berth in this summer's Under-20 World Cup. Roccaro, 19, also was a member of last year's junior World Cup champions, alongside former South Side icon Crystal Dunn.

"It's hard to start from scratch again after winning a World Cup, then building team chemistry with a new group," said Roccaro, a Notre Dame sophomore. "But we made strides and we're in position to win again."

Goals never have been an issue for Roccaro -- scoring them, preventing them, and certainly achieving them.

At age 7, as part of a Girl Scout activity, Roccaro drew a timeline listing long-term aspirations. For age 18, she said, her plan was to earn a soccer scholarship. Done, ahead of schedule. She then wanted to make the senior World Cup team and play professionally. That's in progress.

"As far back as I can remember, I wanted to do this," Roccaro said of her lofty goals.

Excelling at soccer has been almost a singular focus since 1999, when Roccaro first was captivated by the U.S. women's World Cup championship team; when she fantasized about following in the footsteps of Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm.

Roccaro has put herself in position to potentially make that a reality, thanks to her talent (sprinter speed, a powerful leg and well-honed technical skills) and that insatiable drive to succeed. She was named Soccer America's Freshman of the Year at Notre Dame, where her versatility has been showcased. Roccaro played forward, midfielder and defense for the Fighting Irish last season, leading them on a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

"We're extremely proud of her, but none of her success is surprising," said East Islip coach Julie Susskind, who also taught Roccaro in elementary school. "She's always been the kind of kid who sets her mind to something and doesn't stop until she does it."

That even goes for the Ninja Turtle look. "It actually took a long time to get the paint done right," Roccaro said with a laugh. Off the field, she is an admitted goofball whom Susskind described as "silly funny."

One of the ways in which she unwinds from a demanding class, soccer and travel schedule, she said, is by being "spontaneous and stupid" with friends.

That circle of friends includes several Long Islanders who also are Notre Dame athletes: lacrosse standouts Barbara Sullivan (Garden City) and Stephanie Peragallo (Hauppauge) among them.

But on the field, Susskind said, Roccaro is immediately able to "flip that competitive switch."

"I set goals for myself that I ended up reaching, so I keep setting them higher and higher," Roccaro said. "I always tell myself I can reach them, because I have before."

And that's always been Cari Roccaro.

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