By Jade Perez
Stella Schwartz always planned on playing soccer in college, but with that came many sacrifices.
As early as her freshman year at Horace Greeley High School, Schwartz attended college ID soccer camps, events similar to clinics where top high school athletes can attract the attention of college coaches.
She also played on Greeley’s varsity team and was part of the Connecticut Football Club (CFC). The CFC is affiliated with the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL), which according to Schwartz, is the highest-level girls’ soccer league in the country.
As a member of the elite club, Schwartz had practice three days a week in Hamden, Conn., in addition to games on Saturday and Sunday in places as far away as Boston or Maryland. She even had tournaments that required air travel to California, Texas, Arizona and other far-flung destinations.
While Schwartz understood the challenges of the college recruiting process, she acknowledged it was difficult to balance soccer, academics and a social life.
“I missed a lot. Things like parties, dances, sleepovers, vacations, school sporting events and concerts,” Schwartz said. “I even missed my senior year homecoming dance and my varsity team’s sectional playoff game.”
Schwartz was eventually recruited by various schools, including the University of Massachusetts, where as a freshman, she now plays her first year of Division 1 Women’s soccer.
Her perseverance and dedication have been the largest factors behind her rise to becoming a Division I competitor, but Schwartz also found inspiration in her friend, Casey Taub. Taub passed away two years ago from glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer.
Although two years older, Schwartz became friends with Taub through their involvement in Greeley soccer.
“The one thing that I admire about Casey was his selflessness. I remember him always being there, supporting and advocating for the boys’ team,” Schwartz said. “His enthusiasm for his teammates was very inspirational. That made me reflect on why I loved the game and to be grateful for all the successes, which wouldn’t have been possible without the many obstacles I overcame.”
In honor of Taub, Schwartz wears his jersey number – 22 – on the field for every game. Schwartz said that simple gesture provides her with the extra motivation and strength she needs before and during the game.
Jonathan Taub, Casey’s father, noted that having Schwartz pay tribute to his son by wearing his number now that she’s moved onto her college career is a beautiful gesture.
“Every time she puts on his number 22, she represents Casey and her love for the game along with her desire to help people,” Taub said. “Stella is an exceptional person and it gives me comfort to know that someone like her will always carry Casey in her heart.”
Schwartz said paying tribute to Taub has influenced her future and her outlook.
“I do not know what I want to do after college or what I want to study right now, but I know I want to help people in my life,” she said. “Life is short and we should live our best life, to chase our dreams, to be compassionate and to appreciate everything we have.”