Betha Pucek and Lilly Kate Varino had no prior intentions of going to the same college and playing soccer together for another four years, but that’s what the pair has ended up signing on to do.
Pucek and Varino, who are set to graduate from University School of Jackson in May, both played key roles for the Lady Bruins’ soccer program en route to state championships the last two seasons.
They’re going to UT Chattanooga.
Pucek leaves USJ with a program-best 86 assists and 54 goals.
“She’s good to have an assist anytime she steps onto the pitch,” said USJ soccer coach Paul Conway at the signing ceremony. “When you have that kind of production from a player, that’s definitely an advantage that we’ll miss without her here.”
Varino was the Lady Bruins’ goalkeeper for the past four years. In 86 appearances, she recorded 42 shutouts.
“This team has had some pretty good defenses, and she’s been a big part of that playing her role and not allowing the few shots the other team gets to get in the goal,” Conway said. “But a guaranteed shutout every other game … I’ll take that any season if you can guarantee that for me before we start.”
Even though the Lady Bruins have been to Chattanooga the past two years in the fall to come home with state championships, both girls said their favorite memories from playing at USJ did come in Chattanooga but in the summer before the season started.
“We go to Chattanooga every year for camp, and that’s always a great time really bonding with the team as we get ready to go through another season,” Pucek said.
It was during those camps that the players got to know Chattanooga’s coach, Gavin McKinney, who is a former player of Conway’s.
“He’s a big reason I chose Chattanooga because we got to know him some every year we’ve gone there for team camp, and he and Coach Conway know each other so well,” Varino said. “So I know playing for him is the right choice for me because he played for him, so I think we’ll have similar expectations to what we’ve had here with Coach Conway.”
Brandon Shields, email@example.com