From club to college, SHSU soccer “sisters”

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Between bites of chocolate cake Monday, Sam Houston State soccer freshman center back Caitlin Schwartz wails out her rendition of the song “Taylor the Latte Boy.”

As she fights to remember the lyrics and attempts to hit the correct key, she looks over at her freshman teammate Ashley Long laughing and smiling together as the two reminisce on a memory of their youth. Long went on to describe how Schwartz would bring a CD with Taylor the Latte Boy around growing up to purposefully annoy Long’s father on car rides north for tournaments.

“I would literally bring it to spite him,” Schwartz said.

In Schwartz’s 30-second performance, it was clear her and Long could feed off each other for days without end, detailing a different memory of their 14 years as friends.

Unlike the majority of college athletes, Schwartz and Long did not have to let go of the person they grew up playing with when August of their freshman year in college rolled around. The two were lucky enough to continue sharing the field with their teammate.

“[She] cannot get rid of me,” Long said.

Schwartz and Long’s friendship began when the two were four years old in the outskirts of San Antonio. It was the first time the two shared the same ball, the same pitch and the same memories. They played together on a local team in the YMCA before moving to play on another team in their youth called Argentina.

It was not until their under-11 season that the two would spend their one and only year apart on the field.

“We kind of split at club,” Schwartz said. “After that first year, we went back to the same team and stayed since.”

After the Classics Elites Club made a ’96 team and moved Long and Schwartz to the squad, the two would stay together through the rest of their club years. With intensity and time spent for select soccer, the two remained inseparable and grew in their relationship on and off the field.

“If our team won, we won together,” Schwartz said.

As their club years were dwindling, it was clear that the next step in their soccer careers were nearing: college.

They never planned on attending the same college to play soccer. It ended up just working that way, Schwartz said.

SHSU originally showed interest in Long during high school. It was one game that the Bearkats’ scouts attended to watch Long and began to notice Schwartz.

Ironically enough, as SHSU began showing more interest in the both of them, Schwartz committed to the school before Long.

Long eventually made her commitment to SHSU, and it was set the two would play and live together at SHSU.

“At least I knew one person that I’m already comfortable playing with,” Schwartz said. “It was comforting to know a little piece of home came with me.”

In August, the two moved into Huntsville together and became roommates. They enjoyed the first couple of days together and did what every new SHSU freshman does: make random trips to Walmart and see what all the city has to offer.

Then soccer training picked up, the season began and the two soon realized home had a new face.

On their club team growing up, Schwartz and Long had good communication and chemistry on the field because Schwartz played as a holding midfielder while Long played right behind her as a center back. The two were recruited to play those same positions at SHSU. However, weeks into the season head coach Tom Brown moved Schwartz to the backline.

“It’s a lot different,” Schwartz said. “I had to learn a new role. I just learned how to play college soccer. It is different than club.”

Then during the game against Utah State on Sept. 12, the two were the starting center backs and continued to hold the backline as starters for a handful of games in the midseason.

“This is a little different for us because now we have to get use to stepping up more and a faster speed,” Long said.

As friendly as they can be off the field, the friendship does not translate over to the field, they said. When the two are on the field, they are strictly teammates.

“If Ashley messes up, I’m going to get onto her,” Schwartz said. “I hold her to a higher standard.”

But once the two step off the pitch, they are back to being best friends and taking tips from one another to better their play.

“I make a lot of little mistakes like holding the line,” Long said. “So Caitlin is like ‘come on, Ashley, hold the line.’”

The Bearkats head into their final two regular season games in the Southland Conference before the SLC tournament next Friday. As historic of a season it has been for SHSU soccer, Long and Schwartz cannot wait to see how the season plays out and where the next three years will take them.

“[I’m excited] to make more history with my sister,” Schwartz said.