Alee Pettit and former Lake-Lehman girls soccer star Julia Hutsko have been playing soccer with each other since the two were in elementary school. Three weeks ago, the friendship culminated with the duo’s first collegiate career goal.
Pettit, a 2015 Wyoming Area graduate, recorded her first career assist to Hutsko in Susquehanna University’s opening women’s soccer game of the 2016 season. Pettit, from Harding, has made an immediate impact for the River Hawks.
“So far I really like it down here,” she said. “The whole team is very friendly and supportive.”
A few weeks into the season, Pettit, who played mostly defense and the midfield during her high school days, was called into Susquehanna coach Nick Hoover’s office. Hoover told Pettit there are only a handful of players who come through and can play any position.
Because of her speed — she finished first on the team in offseason fitness tests — Pettit was promoted to forward. Hoover said the River Hawks were missing some of that speed up top, and decided to give the Wyoming Area grad a shot.
“She is someone with a lot of talent and ability,” the coach said. “They way our team is run and the way we do things I felt like that could help us out in the long run.”
The highlight of Pettit’s season thus far, along with helping her friend score her first career goal, was getting her own goal in the second game of the season against Albright University, when teammate Cassie Coombs threw a shot in front of the Albright keeper.
Pettit, on a breakaway, was able to beat the keeper to the ball and slide kick the ball in for her first collegiate goal. Through two games, she had two points and her college career was off and running.
“Getting Julia’s goal was an experience in itself,” Pettit said. “The first thing I did when I scored my goal was go to her and give her a hug.”
The transition to college hasn’t been the easiest, Pettit said. The freshman admitted the game is much more physical and serious at the college level.
Soccer over gymnastics
Pettit’s soccer career started when she was about 6 years old. She was playing on club teams in the area and participated in gymnastics.
A gymnastics coach would ask her to be part of a team around the same time a soccer coach asked her to be part of a travel team. She made the decision at that point she would dedicate herself to the pitch. Playing the sport for so long at such a high level has allowed her to become a very smart player.
“At the college level, soccer is a way of attrition,” Hoover said. “We’re not going out there scoring 10 times a game so you have to know what you’re doing and make everything count.”
But because she’s had a lot of success on the field, Pettit is also very hard on herself. She said moving forward she needs to improve on her mental game as much as she needs to worry about her physical abilities.
“I need to stay positive and optimistic when things aren’t going my way,” she said. “I need to tell myself I can do this — I’m playing collegiately. That’s the most important thing for me, personally.”
Committing to Susquehanna
Destiny may have been the reason why Pettit chose Susquehanna University. It was her senior year when she was looking at colleges and beginning the application process. She received an email one day from the school in Northumberland County asking her to apply for free.
At the time, Pettit didn’t even tell her family she was applying to Susquehanna. Meanwhile, she competed in several tournaments and Hoover reached out to her about applying. After explaining the situation to the coach, Pettit had to make a decision.
“I went to check out a few other schools,” she said. “Finally, I came back to Susquehanna and it is such a nice campus.”
Pettit is the daughter of Amy Scibek and David Pettit. She has a younger sister, Sara, who is in ninth grade at Wyoming Area. Through the season, Pettit said her family rarely misses a game, along with grandmother Alica Donovan. The first game the family missed was on Wednesday.
They watched the game on the computer, however.
“They’ve been a huge force behind me,” Pettit said.
The Wyoming Area grad is studying neuroscience at Susquehanna and hopes to become a surgeon one day.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick