Stony Brook women's soccer standout Debbie Aller has experienced a lot playing the sport she loves.
But nothing she's done on the field in her two-plus years at Stony Brook quite compares to what she experienced studying abroad. A junior defender for the Seawolves, Aller has spent part of the last two summers studying in Tanzania, Africa, as an anthropology and environmental studies major.
The Ward Melville graduate enjoyed the experience so much in 2008, she applied for a grant through the Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities department (URECA) that would allow her to return to Tanzania this year under an independent research program.
Along with classmate Michelle Pizer, she conducted a research project on the availability and quality of drinking water in Tanzania. Aller and Pizer conducted four tests on water, looking for micro-organisms, bacteria and other contaminant materials.
Aller described the experience as "amazing" and said local villagers appreciated the work they were doing. "People over there have so many other things to worry about," Aller said. "They have to worry about getting things like water every day and the basic necessities."
Aller donated more than 50 pounds of apparel and sporting equipment to an orphanage in Kondoa on her second trip. She donated soccer balls on her first trip.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Tanzania. But finding a soccer ball in the villages was a challenge. "The kids usually make soccer balls out of trash of just string something together," Aller said. "They really appreciated having real soccer balls."
Aller has enjoyed a fine career at Stony Brook. She's been a part of a Stony Brook defense that produced five shutouts this year and a team that advanced to an America East tournament semifinal for the third straight year.
The highlight of Aller's season came when she scored the winning goal in a 2-1 win at Yale on Sept. 16. Aller was named to the America East All-Academic team.
All of her accomplishments paled in comparison to her time in Tanzania.
"There are so many people in the world that don't get to live the type of life I live or see what I see," she said. "Everything I do now, I'm so much more appreciative.
The honor roll
Several Maritime football players made the All-Eastern Collegiate Football Conference first team: former Carey standout Jamie Spanopoulos (FB), St. Anthony's graduate Matt Cirella (C) and Michael Oehl (LB) out of Smithtown West. Keith Barnes (LB) of Westbury was a second-teamer. Maritime went 6-4 and 3-3 in ECFC play.
Philadelphia University's Trisha Sileo, an Islip graduate, was named the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference rookie of the year. The freshman finished with 14 goals and four assists and was also named to the All-CACC first team. Teammate Erin Walter, a West Islip resident, was named to the ESPN Magazine Academic All-District women's soccer first team. Walter, who started 20 games, held a 4.0 GPA in the fall semester.