Seniors season nearing a close, not friendships

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For a senior, it can be a tough thing realizing the end is near. Four years of hard work, success and adversity. Four years that define your life.

The end is here for five Texas seniors, as the Longhorns host No. 6 Texas A&M in their final home game of the season tonight. Erica Campanelli, Kirsten Birkhold, Kate Nicholson, Alisha Ortiz and Kate Incerto will be honored before the game, with their families joining them on the field.

You would think that with their soccer careers at Texas coming to a close, the seniors might be busy planning for their own futures, leaving little time to interact with each other. But that’s not the case for Campanelli, Birkhold, Nicholson and Ortiz — for the past two years, the four have lived with each other in a house off-campus.

“It’s a fun environment, and we’re all best friends,” Campanelli said. “When you’re bored, you can always just walk down the hall and there’s normally someone home to keep you entertained.”

Head coach Chris Petrucelli thinks that living together helps the players when they’re on the field.

“Those are the kind of things that typically happen when players spend a lot of time together,” Petrucelli said. “It’s something we don’t [exactly encourage], but it tends to happen to different classes.”

Playing with her friends challenges Nicholson to play hard.

“I want to work hard for all of my teammates, but especially when it’s my closest friends,” she said. “There’s an extra bit of ‘umph’ that goes into it when I’m playing with them.”

While their relationships at home affect their ones on the pitch, it doesn’t exactly work the other way around. Campanelli, who has been a captain the past two seasons, said her leadership role doesn’t exactly translate at home.

“I wish I could use that kind of authority, but I don’t. I don’t get to pull rank over anyone, and that’s how it should be.”

The girls are as close as can be, spending time during practice, team meetings and hanging out at home. On campus, they are each other’s best friends. Whenever they go out to eat or see a movie, they go out in packs.

Their house has become a meeting ground for everyone else on the team — they’ve thrown a couple of birthday parties there, and most recently, threw a going-away party for Leah Fortune the day before she left to train with the Brazilian national team.

Birkhold likes to keep things light on the field and at home. She hosts ‘Between the Nets’ on TexasSports.com, where she conducts weekly interviews with her teammates and coaches.

“I pretty much joke around with the entire team,” Birkhold said. “We all pick on each other in a joking manner.”

While Birkhold doesn’t consider herself a prankster, that doesn’t mean pulling a quick joke isn’t out of the question. Such an opportunity arose while she and Nicholson traveled to California this summer.

“It’s well-known that I’m not good with spicy foods,” Nicholson said.

When Nicholson got up to go to the restroom, Birkhold ordered some salsa for the table.

“I set up this extravagant plan, and drank her water so she wouldn’t have any,” Birkhold said, smiling.

When Nicholson returned, Birkhold told her to try the salsa, ensuring her it wasn’t hot.

“Oh no, it’s really good,” Birkhold coaxed her.

So, with the trust of her good friend in mind, Nicholson dunked her quesadilla into the salsa and took a big bite.

“My mouth was immediately on fire,” Nicholson said, “and I’m around looking for water, but Kirsten is just laughing because she’s drank them all. She got
me good.”

Even after the prank, the two remain great friends. They love going on runs together and are even training to run in the Austin Half-Marathon this February.

It’s something they wanted to do last year but couldn’t because coach Petrucelli didn’t think it was a good idea for them to run it while on the team.

Finishing up their soccer careers at Texas certainly will open up some free time for the seniors, but Campanelli says they won’t easily forget the times they’ve
had together.

“There’s going to be so many memories and all of them are going to make me smile,” she said.